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Practical and exciting KS3 maths ideas?

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by caterpillartobutterfly, Nov 21, 2015.

  1. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I have just taken over a KS3 maths class who are largely used to textbook work. They hate it and so do I. However I've not taught KS3 maths for about 10 years and am struggling a bit to find books or websites that have something exciting and yet robust enough to ensure rapid learning and progress.

    I'm recently used to teaching KS1 and there are zillions of websites and books of ideas for practical, group work, problem solving, etc, before that KS2 and again heaps of bits around and about. I think probably in my previous life I did mainly rely on textbooks for KS3 classes, with the odd 'thinking maths' or 'magic maths' session as a one off here and there. However I don't want to go back to that, but am struggling to find anything more.

    Nrich are fine for applying knowledge, but are still largely sitting at a desk and writing.
    This class have had a rough time, maths wise, over the last year or two and so I want to inspire and enthuse as well as enable them to 'catch up'.

    What do you all use?
  2. missrturner

    missrturner Occasional commenter

    Whilst I'm not a KS3 teacher, my most enjoyable maths lessons where when I was in Year 8. My teacher barely ever used textbooks. These are just some of the lessons I can remember almost 10 years later - they really did stick with me.

    * Cereal/sweets investigations - We used things like Smarties/Froot Loops to estimate then work out the mode, median etc for the cereals/colours etc. It was great to be able to go wild and predict out of a pack of sweets how many would be red etc and apply our learning.

    * Algebra orienteering around the school - We had to work out classroom numbers using the algebra equations given to us and collect gold coins that were around that corridor.

    * BODMAS pyramid. We had triangles of sums to solve and once solved we then had to find the answer (containing another sum on the paper) and stick them together to form a pyramid. Lots of moving about our table, discussing the solutions, checking etc. I've seen lots of templates for these on TES resources.

    *Fraction, percentages etc challenges using Argos catalogues. We would have to work out % of items. I remember she would have challenges on the board like 'You have £150 to spend on a new bed...' then set a timer so we would find one within that price range then have a pretend sale where the item is now 33% off - what's the new price? etc. The item has increased by 12% What's the new price?

    I remember always standing up and moving around when doing starters and lots of activities where you would have to find the person who had the answer to your sum. Lots of whiteboard work to work out answers. Hope that this could give you some inspiration!
    colinbillett likes this.
  3. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    They are great, thank you.
    Going to look up BODMAS pyramids, my new class seem to call it BIDMAS...hey ho!
  4. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

    A reality check for you, and others like you. While you might get a very small minority of the class genuinely enthused, most students won't get in the least bit excited no matter what you do. However, the less actual writing/work/thinking that an activity involves the more most students will claim to like it. If you were to show your class a video on the calculus of variations most of the little t** **** would swear blind that they enjoyed it, as long as they didn't have to write anything and could get away with talking or playing with their mobile under the desk.
    vinnie24 likes this.
  5. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Not sure I need that kind of reality check. They absolutely need to do thinking and writing and I'm vaguely winning (most of the time) the battle to convince them that a challenge is a good thing! That's why I asked about activities robust enough to ensure learning and progress. I can find a whole heap of 'fun' and 'games' but if they don't allow for real learning I'm not interested.

    But I know, after a zillion years of teaching, than learning doesn't have to be tedious and boring. Just looking for something other than 'Yesterday we did p56, so today must be p57 and tomorrow will be p58. Copy the LO from the board, read the example and get on with it' kind of nonsense.
  6. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    I do not think that your problem is with textbooks.
  7. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Nor do I, just in the way they can be used.
    Hence asking on here for something utterly different as a total break for the class.

    Sheeesh! Glad I'm not an NQT coming in for the first time to ask for ideas. At least I know that sometimes people on TES give help rather than (non-constructive) criticism and am confident enough to know I'm a great teacher who would just like a couple more sources of ideas.
    jhh88, missrturner and colinbillett like this.
  8. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

    If you are referring to my comment, I think that there are probably plenty of teachers who will find my comment very constructive. Especially relatively new teachers, who are beating themselves up over not being able to excite students whose sole desire in life is to send every waking minute (when not eating junk food) in front of an Xbox.

    I'm reminded of one imbecilic head who declared that there was no such thing as a lazy child:rolleyes:
  9. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I wasn't really referring to anyone as such.

    Just when I posted I was hoping for ideas of where to find something more varied than textbook exercises. Two out of three responses were irrelevant to me (and the question) and maybe I was feeling a bit fed up about that. Apologies.

    I'm lucky that the class I'm asking for are keen to learn, but I need something to keep them and me from death by textbook. Thinking and puzzling is essential. Struggling with new ideas would be fab too. Just in a varied format.
  10. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

  11. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    armandine2 likes this.
  12. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    That sounds like bad use of a bad textbook. The books I am used to for KS3 included plenty of appropriate (and varied) exercises, but also interesting discussions, puzzles and investigations. I would not dream of expecting them to learn by reading the examples in the books, which are a useful additon to their learning, especially when working at home. Having the books enabled me to spend time planning how to teach them and finding good extra material rather than wasting it on finding things for them to do all the time.
  13. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    That's my plan Piranha, but for now it is finding the extra that is taking me time.
    I don't mind doing that at all, but any time saved by asking for recommendations is good imo.
  14. armandine2

    armandine2 Established commenter

    Surely textbooks which converge on common criteria are too prescriptive? (Oates: 2014) thanks Vince

    Just been looking (off-piste) at a textbook - Champion and Arnold Motor Vehicle Calculations and Science 3rd edition (p121 - quite a good example here (I thought) on piston travel - using pythagoras - showing a 'design fact' of crank mechanisms' linkage that's not immediately obvious), I think the excitment here is how you find the element of technology exposed through the mathematical skill. The appreciation is in the quality of the 'design fact' that the beholder has, perhaps.
    Vince_Ulam likes this.
  15. m4thsdotcom

    m4thsdotcom Occasional commenter

    I'm not sure I would aim to necessarily deliver practical/exciting lessons as such.
    I would aim more for challenging, progressive and relevant. In the hunt for excitement and contextualising maths there is often the pitfall of edutainment rather than equipping students with the skills that they need.
    Don't get me wrong, some lessons can be practical and some uses of textbooks are boring. That said, if the student has a reason to learn then you may find they become more engaged with less emphasis on what is being taught.
    I would like to think that some lessons can be used for exploring but most will be what they need to learn from the SOW delivered in a manner such that they are inspired to to learn or be part of what you are doing. Nrich is great for able pupils when the opportunity arises but for many others a positive teacher who praises students and makes learning worthwhile is more important for me. The vast majority of my learners are happy to work from a textbook, worksheet, the board or an exam paper as long as the temperature for learning is good. Throwing a textbook at them and getting them to do it alone will rarely inspire. Do the work with them, help them out and they are likely to accept it.
    I can think of some great practical lessons or lessons in context but I often think repetition, rote learning and practice of basic skills is necessary and easily achieved if there is a common goal.
    For disengaged learners, short snappy tasks with shared answers may be the way forward to build a sense of intrinsic motivation and positivity, I wouldn't fancy trying to reinvent the wheel every Sunday night planning lessons just to keep them on board. As David says, some won't even like the tasks.
    If you did fancy something a little different from the textbook though:
  16. armandine2

    armandine2 Established commenter

  17. armandine2

    armandine2 Established commenter

    Oh dear something needs improvement - the stroke: 6 lines (width) at the crank is not evident in my 6+ a bit lines-width of piston travel. (glad I spotted it)
  18. Maths_Shed

    Maths_Shed Occasional commenter

    Would this type of question work for many pupils never mind classes? The level of understanding of Pythagoras theorem required to even start this task would probably take up far more time than a scheme of work allows to teach the basics.
  19. armandine2

    armandine2 Established commenter

    The figure is just compass work and a set 30 degree angle triangle - the task is a process one - it has been chosen as the content is seen as important - I wouldn't've found my dodgy line spacing without doing it on an old exercise book. The pythagoras element, perhaps, is the class differentiation - to put calculated numbers to the difference - which would've been measured. I think we can expect pupils to use a ruler and measure lengths, at KS3.
  20. armandine2

    armandine2 Established commenter

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