**Algebra from Primary to Secondary**

In the new (well it’s been taught for a few years now) primary curriculum for maths there was an interesting new addition: Algebra. In the past, I have taught it to those higher ability children in a roundabout way without being totally explicit that it was algebra as I did not want to scare them off. Algebra was seen amongst children as one of those topics that the tutors taught if you were going for the 11+ (grammar school entrance exams). I do remember teaching it a bit more explicit way back in the time of levels to my level 6 booster group (yes we did do such as thing in my last school), most of whom panicked as they had never really quite understood it when learning it for their grammar test and often froze when facing questions with ‘unknows’ (algebra) in them.

Fast forward 5 years and I have been back in Year 6 a while and wondering how best mathematically to introduce algebra. After careful thinking, I decided it was best to build up slowly from missing numbers in calculations to pictures representing numbers and then onto letters. I found that this approach in the class I was teaching worked well (even with my very bad drawings for pictures representing numbers). Children were very receptive and commented that ‘It’s just like using my number knowledge for pictures and letters’. Again, proving how important it is that children have secure and confident number knowledge.

Keeping algebra fun and linked to real life is not quite so obvious to 10 and 11-year-olds. They understood pictures – which could easily link to shopping for different items which all had different costs. However, letters and real life were not quite such an obvious link to real life. That was the question in the SATs paper last year linking the time it took to cook a chicken to letters so that children could prove that they could write a formula. And post-test, most children who talked to me about that question commented that their parents just read the back of the ‘ready roast bag’ and they never saw them doing maths….

For me, the hardest part of algebra for children has always been sequenced. If children see links between numbers they can continue patterns and find missing numbers but don’t get the relevance of finding the nth term. This I have found is all about confidence. So, if you build children up from spotting patterns, continuing sequences and then talk about how to explain a sequence you can make good links to writing formula. Again, this is the approach I have recently taken to this topic of algebra and it makes better sense to children than jumping in with find the 10th, 100th and then nth number in a sequence.

As a mathematician, I have always enjoyed simplifying expressions. This topic of algebra to be in straightforward and can be introduced early on in algebra to children. However, in the curriculum, this is saved until KS3.

All of my ideas and experience from above culminated in the creation of my latest app: Astro Algebra which both aims to teach children about different topics in algebra and be an enjoyable space-themed game! The app follows my logical thinking of building up each topic (almost with no mention of algebra) to grow the children’s confidence and then drip feeds in the algebra so that they develop a good understanding of that topic.

My current year 6 class, who have been the trialists, want to learn more algebra on their own so that they can become quicker and complete all the levels. The competitive edge and game element often results in the children overcoming the fear of algebra as they all just call ask ‘Can we play the space maths again?’. So to them, algebra is nothing complicated or a bit of maths they can’t do, it is just a new area of maths where they get to apply their number skills. With my app, most of them are starting to love the idea of algebra as it is ‘grown up and fun maths’ which they are no longer struggling with.

You can check out the app below:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/astro-algebra/id1278960520?mt=8

]]>**How can you make Maths engaging?**

In my experience maths is a subject that people either love or hate, personally I love maths. I love manipulating numbers, finding answers and having that feeling that I ‘know’ something.

A lot of children are bored by maths, this is something that really frustrates me! Maths is a subject that can create curiosity, you just have to ask the right questions. If a teacher’s maths lessons consist solely of using a textbook and working in books it is no wonder that children are bored. If you give children a challenge, usually, they step up to the challenge and are really engaged. It doesn’t matter if the lesson goes slightly off plan because as long as children are interested they will learn. Learning in maths does not start with counting or knowing addition sums, it starts with engaging children and creating that ‘spark’.

In a previous placement I was working with a group of HA children on one more and one less. I began with one digit numbers and quickly moved onto two digit numbers. Whilst 6 of the children were interested and were using the resources provided to manipulate I noticed two children were talking. I stopped and asked what they were talking about. One child replied “She thinks that 100 – 1 = 99 and I think she’s wrong I think its 199″. My favourite reply to the class at the time was ‘prove it’ so I asked him to prove he was right and she was wrong, so he did. The rest of the group carried on with my planned task, including the girl who had made the statement and the other child set about collecting resources that he might need (a felt tip, some counters and a piece of paper). My group quickly finished the task and went off to join in the other activities that were going on in the classroom. 15 minutes later I noticed the child was still working on proving he was right. He was drawing squares, counting them and scratching his head before carrying on, this continued for a while longer, but he was still engrossed in it. I left him to it and began working with another group and halfway through the next activity I got a tap on my shoulder. He had his piece of paper in his hand (it had the question on it, 100 squares and one was crossed through) and said to me that he had finished working it out and he had realised the other girl was right. He was a little disappointed that he was wrong but I asked him if he had learnt anything new, he had of course, and told him that he should be pleased that he had learnt something new, this cheered him up a little. He then went and found the girl and told her that he had found out that she was right.

I wasn’t really bothered whether he was right or wrong in the end, or how he had worked it out. I was more in awe of him because he came up with the question without input from an adult, he went and found the resources that he thought would help him to find an answer and then he sat at a table for more than 30 minutes concentrating in the midst of a chaotic classroom with 29 other children doing different activities and wasn’t distracted, he found the answer, realised he was wrong at the start, admitted this and congratulated the other child on being correct.

And he was proud of himself because he had *‘proven it’.*

He may not have completed the planned activity, but in those 30 minutes he was learning, engaged and enjoying what he was doing, he had that ‘spark’.

Children say they are rubbish at maths. No child is rubbish at maths every single child has an ability in maths, it is just that some children do not associate what they know with maths as a school subject, but if you can get that spark, create a bit of interest and engagement children will come to realise they are not rubbish at maths, but they are children and they need to be excited about what they are learning to realise that they are good at maths.

]]>**Who is the Secret Walker in your classroom?**

Let’s get this straight from the start, what follows is not my original idea. Like most teachers, I consciously and unconsciously soak up ideas from colleagues, the internet and, well, anywhere really. I only wish I could give full credit to the person who I got this idea from (who probably got it from someone else anyway) but the source is lost in the mists of time…

So, Secret Walker. It’s a pretty simple idea and its success basically hinges on choosing the right person to be the first Secret Walker. Once you get it up and running you can use lolly sticks, or a random name generator or even go all old school and just tick names off a list when they’ve had a go. But the choice of your first Secret Walker is crucial because it has to be someone you know can pull it off. If not the whole thing falls flat on its face leaving you with two equally unsatisfactory options – either “let them off” and give out the prize anyway, undermining the entire idea, or refuse to name the Secret Walker, thus setting it up as an impossible task.

Secret Walker couldn’t be simpler to set up (one of the reasons I like it so much). You need a writing implement, a small piece of paper and some kind of whole class reward. That’s it. The rules are equally simple. It works well from Year 1 up, although towards the end of Year 6 they do tend to roll their eyes a bit.

**Here’s how to play.**

One person is chosen by an adult to be the Secret Walker. That person’s name is written on a piece of paper which is folded up and pinned up on a display board, out of reach. On the first game, you need to set aside a couple of minutes to explain the concept, after that, they usually ask “Can we play Secret Walker?” as soon as you line them up.

Once the class is ready to leave the room, say “Secret Walker starts now.” and the game is on.

Naturally, the children are expected to conform to the normal expectations about moving around the school, taking part in assembly etc. If the Secret Walker’s behaviour is of the required standard for the entire time the class is out of the classroom, the whole class gets a reward. At our school it’s house points, could equally be a marble in a jar or whatever reward system you are using.

On returning to the classroom, I usually favor an X factor style reveal, insisting on complete silence and an over-long pause to build the tension. I then ask the Secret Walker to confirm that they have indeed walked silently down the corridor, listened in assembly, etc. (of course I know they have because I’ve been watching them), before awarding everyone the prize of 5 shiny housepoints.

You’ve no doubt spotted the flaw in this plan. What if the Secret Walker has a chat in the corridor? What if they spend the entire assembly pulling the plaits of the child in front? What if, heaven forfend, they have to be moved by a member of staff?

In the event that the Secret Walker doesn’t manage it, I rip up the piece of paper and put it in my pocket. Not the bin, as that gives someone the opportunity to fish it out and be unkind. I say that unfortunately, the Secret Walker didn’t manage to be quiet while moving around the school and therefore no one gets a reward today. I never name the Secret Walker (I say never, it’s only ever happened once).

Since I mentioned this game online (in an interview with **@**bbcTeaching ) I’ve had a really positive response. I think there is plenty of potential for using this idea in other contexts. @LMisselle1 has already suggested a Secret Talker. If you like this idea, please take it, adapt it and make it work for you.

*Sam is a primary teacher in Devon and the founder of schoolwell.co.uk. Should you want to, you can usually find her on twitter – **@**samschoolstuff**.*

**How To Make Effective Cross-Curricular Links.**

**The Cross Curricular Approach**

The phrase ‘Cross-Curricular’ is often used to describe an approach to lesson planning whereby links are made between subjects rather than segregating them entirely. It is understandable that when subjects are separate some receive more emphasis than others, Literacy and Maths for example. Other subjects can then be seen as less significant to the students which reduces engagement and development.

While there are advantages to complete subject separation, it can create a mental distinction between similar or identical skills use in different subjects, for example pupils who can draw graphs in maths but struggle to use them in science. So how are effective links between subjects made?

**Effective Links Between Subjects**

A cross-curricular approach aims to reduce barriers between subjects to increase student confidence in applying skills in a different way and to help surround the student with the subject. It has been shown that when used well, this approach helps pupils to see the transfer-ability of skills and a gain a deeper understanding of their learning (See ‘Is Cross-Curricular Crucial?‘). For links to be effective and worthwhile they should be:

- Meaningful – Provide some context for subjects or show a skill being used in a slightly different way.
- Explicit – The link and purpose behind it should be clear.
- Motivating – Subject overlap provides an opportunity for a wider variety of fun activities.

See ‘Implementing a Cross-Curricular Approach‘ and ‘Making Cross Curricular Links‘

But how are effective links made?

Some subjects are easier to links. For example, writing a brochure for a location covers Geography and Literacy in a meaningful way and doesn’t give preference to either subject with regards to its importance or value. Other subjects are more difficult to overlap without spending a lot of time resourcing and planning. So how else can subjects be linked?

**Linking Maths and History**

When I was in school, Maths and History were my two favourite subjects but were kept distinctly separated. Providing an overlap between these subjects can help pupils to see a different context in which their skills from Maths can be applied while spending more time surrounded by the historical subject to help pupils remember terms and names to reaffirm their learning. This was the inspiration behind developing www.PrimaryMathsResources.com , a free maths worksheet generator with the unique option to apply a historical theme to any worksheet. Historical themes, such as Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt and the Vikings, are easy (and free) to apply to any worksheet generated using the site. Many options are provided to tailor worksheets to the needs of the class meaning that lessons can be resourced for a wide range of abilities across many school years. The website is completely free to use in an unlimited capacity and for each worksheet generated a full answer sheet is provided.

The aims of PrimaryMathsResources.com are:

- Help busy primary school educators save time on their maths resourcing.
- Provide fun maths worksheets to help nurture a love of the subject.
- Enable teachers to generate resources which provide a cross-curricular link between history and maths.

The worksheet below is a Shopkeeper’s Orders division worksheet with an Ancient Rome theme applied which has been produced using the Division worksheet generator.

With this worksheet pupils help a Roman shopkeeper fulfil their orders by calculating how many boxes of each item are needed to meet the customer’s demands. The primary skill used in this worksheet is division with remainders, but the student must understand the reason behind the task in order get the answer correct. For instance, Customer 1 requires 72 parchment rolls which come in a box of 7. A pupil may understand that 72 / 7 is 10 with 2 remaining, but they may miss that in order for the Roman shopkeeper to meet the needs of the customer, they must send 11 boxes. While completing this mathematical task the students are seeing examples of items that they can associate with the era of Ancient Rome to reaffirm their learning of the subject.

So has an effective link been made? Well, the link is meaningful as it requires division to be used in a context outside of ordinary questions and provides a context for the task in line with the historical subject. The worksheet provides a clear link between the subjects and is benefiting the learning of both, so it is explicit. Presenting this puzzle in the historical context (hopefully) provides a fun variation on division which the pupil will find motivating and engaging.

Below is an example of a Word Problems Addition worksheet with an Ancient Egyptian theme, generated using the Addition worksheet generator:

Again, this worksheet requires pupils to apply a common skill (addition) in an unusual context while surrounding the pupils with terms that they may have come across during their History lessons. Names like Horus and Set and terms such as slinger and embalmer remind the pupil of these words which they will associate with the historical topic. All while they apply a skill from their Maths lessons.

Currently, themes can be applied to any worksheet. With basic, ‘Plain Question’ worksheets, the application of a theme decorates the worksheet with images relevant to that theme and, depending on the subject, sets a context for the task such that a character (Zeus for example) needs help with the questions.

The full list of themes is shown below:

- Ancient Romans
- Ancient Greeks
- Shakespeare’s Macbeth
- Ancient Egyptians
- Vikings
- Cowboys
- Christmas
- Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream

So please give PrimaryMathsResources.com a try. It’s free to use, so what have you got to lose? I love seeing the worksheets in use, so send a picture to me via twitter (@PrimaryMathsRes) or post it on my Facebook page (/PrimaryMathsResourcesSite).

Happy Teaching!

]]>**The wonderful world for writable surfaces!**

Hi-tech isn’t always ICT based, sometimes it is a well thought out piece of design that transform a classroom. Writable surfaces are a must in every classroom as they engage the children and encourage collaboration while learning.

Using writable surfaces is a fantastic way to improve teaching and learning. Those tricky two mark questions were we have all been frustrated at the lack of working out displayed is overcome as sharing your method is so easy to do. Memory is improved if you take a photo (we all have those childhood photos were we can picture the time based on the 80s wallpaper) to share at a later date making it ideal for learners. The ideas are on display for all to share and use so learners can engage in discussions. Even teacher feedback can be jotted down directly on the desk.

Don’t take my word for it, trust in my class who all delight when I allow them to draw on our tables.

Some to recap:

- Greater collaboration
- Aids memory
- Is just cool to do and kids love it

**Why not try something new with Parental Engagement?**

Disclaimer: These are my own thoughts and reflections and not the views of my school, colleagues or local authority.

Over the years I have worked with many different Maths teachers – long established professionals, newly qualified teachers, casual supply – but one always comes to mind when the subject of parents evenings comes up. Mr W was in with us on long-term supply and while he wasn’t a Maths specialist he was an ideal supply teacher. The kids liked him, he could control his classes, get them to do work set and was enthusiastic about the subject and the kids. When presented by the department head with a piece of A4 paper with a grid split in to 5 minute intervals he wasn’t sure what to do with it.

“What’s this for?” he inquired.

“It’s a booking form for the upcoming parents evening.”

“A parents evening? You want me to do a parents evening… FANTASTIC!” he boomed, visible delighted and clapping his hands.

Whenever the subject of parents evening comes up and after my default reaction (an audible groan and words to the effect of “Which evening is this going to eat into then?”) has subsided I think of Mr W’s unbridled enthusiasm. That is exactly how we should feel when it comes to engaging with parents. The prospect of repeating the same handful of stock soundbites over a long evening split into five minute blocks does not exactly fill me with joy. Don’t get me wrong. Once you get going on the evening and start talking to the parents there is often a lot of good dialogue but there’s always that feeling of “Surely there’s a better way” at the end. The profession and the curriculum have moved on so much since I started teaching but parental engagement seems to have stood still. In fact, now I think back to when I was a pupil at school a parents evening then would have looked pretty much identical to one today.

At my school the way we deliver Maths to our S1/S2 classes (pupils aged about 12-13/13-14 years old) has changed dramatically over the past two years (see my guest post on Mark Horley’s blog for more details on that) so it made sense for us to attempt some different approaches to engaging parents too. We have still held the “traditional” five minutes with a teacher at a desk but we also tried something new with a “Back to School” evening promoted with the below flyer:

The original flyer that was to be sent home was very dry and formal and it was a very deliberate decision to redraft it into something with a more light and informal tone. This was very much what we were aiming for with the evening (something that suited me no end!). Basically, we didn’t want to scare anyone off or cause and anxiety in the minds of parents who may have been scared by their own experiences in the Maths classroom! Keeping the evening fairly short was also a deliberate decision – long enough to get our messages across but brief enough not for it to seem a chore.

I think, on reflection, we could have done more to promote it. Out of a year group of just over 100 pupils we have just over 20 parents attend. Flyers were issued through registration teachers and it may be the case that some of those flyers are still lying crumbled at the bottom of school bags. I think we, as a department, should have issued the information and really pushed it, encouraging pupils to encourage their parents to come along. I promoted it a bit on my Twitter feed (this was also the case with the main school account) but the infrastructure does exist to get directly in touch with parents through emails and text message and we really could have used that better.

Numbers aside the evening was a great success. The three sessions ran smoothly and the feedback from parents was overwhelmingly positive. With events like these and things like classroom observations it is very tempting to put on an all-singing-and-dancing affair which shows you in a very, very positive light but isn’t exactly a true reflection of your day-to-day practice. Our event showcased things we do on a daily basis and demonstrated the type of learning and teacher we are committed to. I think this honesty is one of the reasons the evening was a success.

The first session was on teaching for understanding. This is not something new. Building understanding has always been a part of effective teaching but recently we have refocused in on it and allowed pupils to discover the rules and shortcuts that make up a mathematician’s toolkit themselves. The understanding session looked at division fractions and the use of a grid to let pupils discover the “flip the second one and multiply” shortcut for themselves. I love this task (pictured below) as it really gets pupils to think about what division actually means. A very powerful point was made at the session too that I hadn’t really considered. Using this method of shading in fractions of grids means pupils need to have an understanding of what they mean. They need to be able to picture 2/3 and 1/6 of a grid and know what that looks like. If they aren’t able to do that then there isn’t much point in them going through the motions of dividing fractions by rote using a shortcut.

The second session was about the activities and resources used with these classes. While the “dusty old textbooks” mentioned in the flyer will always have a place in the classroom, as will the need for sitting down and quietly working through a pile of questions, it’s much more engaging if there are a varied selection of tasks used in class. Activities such as card matching, dominoes or the treasure hunt get pupils to interact with each other, discuss their work and, “shock horror!”, enjoy themselves in the Maths classroom. I think this session was probably the most enjoyable of the three as there was a short blurb from the staff hosting it and then the parents well let loose and given an opportunity to use the tasks. Those involved really seemed to get a kick out of trying the activities themselves.

The third session, the one I ran, was on what parents could do to support their child’s numeracy / Maths work at home. I was able to talk for a short while about some of the excellent Maths resources there are online. This included good question generating websites – such as the excellent Mr Carter Maths website and the MathsBot Differentiated Questions which provide a never ending source of practice that could be done at home – as well as websites like BBC Bitesize or YouTube that could be used to support any areas pupils needed to work on. Parents then got a chance to attempt some tasks on the MyMaths website using some dummy profiles I had set up and see how the lessons and tasks could be set to meet a pupils individual needs. While I feel the content of my session may have been a bit dry and not as exciting as the other two the hands-on nature of parents using the website gave them something to engage with.

The informal chat at the end of the evening was a positive inclusion. I thought it might have been a case of folks just saying “Right, thanks for that, we’ll be off!” before everyone going on their separate ways was but there was a very pleasant, relaxed atmosphere with parents and staff all mingling with one another and talking about the evening without the clock ticking by and the need to rush on to the next session. Parents were keen to know more about all the aspects of what had been covered and were very grateful for the opportunity to see a short “slice of life” in the Maths department. Feedback forms were filled out and I was delighted to see they were overwhelmingly positive. I felt a genuine source of pride in myself and for the whole department when I came across the one below.

Are we planning to do the same again next year? Yes. Definitely! The positive response meant it was more than worth the effort of setting it up. In truth while there was a decent bit of preparation put into the evening the sourcing activities and websites was easy as it was all resources we use on a daily basis and had ready to hand as we had used it recently or were planning to in upcoming lessons. Would the following year be a carbon copy of this years? Most likely not – there would be some changes that need to made. We would need to promote the event harder and maybe hold it earlier in the year (given the pupils this was aimed at were almost 3/4 of the way through their first secondary school year when the event ran) but we are hopeful that word-of-mouth will help the attendance to grow organically too. The idea of getting pupils involved would make sense. Inviting pupils in to demonstrate the activities to their parents could be more powerful than staff talking about it. I’m not sure I see this model for parents evenings completely replace the traditional evening of five minute face-to-face slots in the hall but it is definitely a welcome addition and something that might encourage a few more Mr W-esque “FANTASTIC!”s from staff when parent evenings are mentioned.

]]>**Battle of the Wrist Bands! A great way to engage your students in lesson!**

*“Not Animal Farm again.”*

*“This novel is awful.*

*“Why do we have to analyse language anyway.”*

Just a few statements from Year 11 class during their studying of the novel Animal Farm. Like a lot of teachers, I was trying and doing EVERYTHING to ensure engagement but they simply disliked the novel.

So, one Saturday night as I was entering a nightclub I was given a wristband as proof of payment- and this is where the initial idea of wristbands came about.

My brain went into overdrive with colours and success criteria and that word Ofsted love: PROGRESS.

To the lesson. I decided first of all to print and cut out key quotations from the novel which varied in difficulty and length. I placed these quotations inside balloons, again colour coordinated in terms of differentiation with purple being the most difficult quotations to analyse in detail and pink being slightly easier. Naturally, this means you can distribute the quotations according to ability.

Now, I ordered green, yellow and pink wristbands which I linked to the success criteria of the lesson.

**Pink**: correct language terminology is used throughout analysis including entire lines and individual words.

**Yellow**: correct language terminology is used throughout analysis including entire lines and individual words with an explanation of the effect on the reader.

**Green:** correct language terminology is used throughout analysis including entire lines and individual words with an explanation of the effect on the reader and a link to the context of the novella.

Students started the lesson by popping the balloon which in this instance had them instantly hooked. There was a buzz about quotations in Animal Farm. They proceeded to analyse the language used in the quotation from inside the balloon, whilst attempting to secure wristbands according to their analysis. The boys were extremely competitive here and naturally wanted to ‘win’ all three colours.

Students strived to ensure that their explanation of the language included the correct terminology, focused on the impact of individual words, used the Russian Revolution where possible and there was marked improvement in the answers of those so-called ‘weaker’ students. The discussion in the room was one of enthusiasm; students actively helping and assessing others, “if you add this then you can get a green wristband”. There was self-assessment and peer-assessment at all times!

The main task involved an exam response. The big question now was could students apply the success criteria to an exam response without any balloons, without any wristbands on offer? And, yes they could. By incorporating balloons and wristbands the students were engaged, hooked and most importantly improved on their analysis of language in a book they so disliked.

Finally, I placed a quick finisher in envelopes which I attached underneath the students seats. Sounds silly I know, but again, a quick way of engaging the group. The ‘finisher’ was used to consolidate what had already been done and inside the envelopes were singe words from Animal Farm.

In pairs, the students were timed on each word to see how well they could explain the effect of individual words under strict time constraints and also if they could place this word in to the context of the entire novella.

Entering the staff room at break and there was a buzz amongst the teachers who were asking why the students had the wristbands and what the lesson involved and commenting on how the students were ‘buzzing’ about English all day.

And, it did make me smile to see the Year 11 students still wearing their wristbands on the way out of the school gates at 3.15.

Battle of the wrist bands – a clear winner!

By Stacey Reay (Teaching and Learning Consultant – Greenfield Community College)

]]>As complex and mysterious math may seem for those lost in a forest of equations, formulas, and figures, take comfort in knowing math may have started with just the use of our ten fingers. That may be cold comfort for you if you’re preparing for a math test. Yet, you are not alone. Many have gone before you.

**Hands-On Learning**

Those fingers of yours may be used for more than just counting to 10. Our hands can offer shortcuts to multiplication! Other hacks have been used successfully in math tests because they make the complex more simple. Just for fun, let’s visit some shortcuts and hacks which pull us out of the forest so we can see the trees:

**Multiplying 6, 7, 8, and 9** just using your hands. Spread the fingers of each hand as wide as you can. Now turn your spread hands vertically so the palms face you, and the fingers on one hand almost touching the fingers of the other hand. According to Instructables.com, you should ascribe the pinky with number 6, then climb up the hand with each finger ascribed to the next number in order. So, each pinky is 6, and each thumb will be a number 10.

When multiplying any of the numbers between 6 and 9, just touch the tips of those numbered fingers together. Count the touching fingers and any fingers below those touching fingers. (Don’t add their ascribed value, just add the number of fingers). The total number of these lower fingers will be the figure in the “tens” place of your multiplication answer.

Next MULTIPLY the number of fingers above the touching finger on your left hand with the number of fingers above the touching finger on your right hand. This product will be the number in the “ones” column in your answer. Try it! Example: If you are asked to multiply 7 x 8: The finger ascribed to 7 in your left hand must touch the tip of the finger ascribed to 8 in your right hand. Counting these fingers and all fingers below them equal 5. So, the number 5 shall sit in the tens column of your multiplication answer. Next, multiply the number of fingers above in your left hand (2) with the number of fingers above your touching finger in your right hand (3). This product of 6 shall sit in the ones column of your multiplication answer. 7 x 8 = 56.

**Multiplying Percentages**

When asked to find percentages of three digit numbers (ex. 30% of 500) use this hack:

Drop the last digit of each side and multiply them together (3 x 50 = 150).

__Multiplying__** by Nines**

Here is a hack for testing the multiplication of nines. The product of 9 times each number through 10, starts with zero in the tens column, and 9 in the ones column; then progresses up through each sequential number up in the tens column; and cascades down from 9 in the ones column. (Ex. 9×1=09; 9×2=18; 9×3=27 etc..)

**Get the Fraction of Whole Numbers**

If you are tested on the fraction of a whole number, try this hack. Divide the whole number by the denominator of the fraction. Take this quotient and multiply it by the numerator of the fraction. (Ex. ¾ of 24 can be calculated by dividing 24 by 4, which equals 6. Then take that 6 and multiply it by the numerator 3, which answers the question as 18!

**If Only We Had 11 Fingers**

Multiplying by 11 is easy if by single digits. But what about double digits? It’s a split decision. Take the number you are multiplying by 11 then split the digits so that you can insert another digit between them. Get that other digit by adding the two numbers you split together. Your sum is inserted between the split digits to create a new three-digit answer! Ex. 42 x 11: Split the 4 and 2. Add 4 + 2 = 6. Now insert the 6 between them. (462)

Crush the GRE Test is an online resource dedicated to promoting learning and simplifying the learning process. They provide reviews of GRE exam study materials and unmatched study strategies to fast track each student’s success. Learn more at http://crushthegretest.com/.

]]>**The secret behind Wellbeing Bags!**

It was a gruelling first term at the British International School, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It started during the rainy season in mid August and finished on 16^{th} December. I am a PE teacher and in an international school setting that means an extremely long list of extracurricular clubs, fixtures, swimming galas, local and international tournaments.

Last year during the same period I worked 21 days in a row, a real test of my physical and mental fortitude. This year I was responsible for leading a U15 sports trip to Shanghai and delivering a whole school sports day to 850+ students, an easy term in comparison. My colleagues had the same test of physical and mental stamina as I did last year, and from what I recall by the end of those 21 days after such a hectic term you only felt one thing, exhaustion!

So our PE department, which consists of 4 PE staff, 1 TA and 3 coaches in the last 6 weeks of term went from Shanghai to Phuket, Pataya and finally Bangkok all the time giving all our emotional energy to students competing not to mention the physical exertions of coaching and managing students.

I needed to do something to show my friends and colleagues that there was light at the end of the tunnel and we could make it. The idea was originally suggested by @abbiemann1982 as part @MartynReah #teacher5aday. If you don’t know #teacher5aday is a movement, a group of wonderful educators who are concerned with improving the work life balance that so many of us struggle with. There have been so many different initiatives all of which can be found if you search the hash tag #teacher5aday on twitter. The wellbeing bags are just another layer to an ever increasing tapestry of interesting, challenging and thought provoking initiatives.

So during the last week of term when everyone arrived back from all over South East Asia, a wellbeing bag was waiting for all PE teachers, TA and coaches. A small token to show them how I valued their hard work and support. To give them a little something to make it through that last demanding week. Most schools last week of term, things begin to ‘wind down’, not so in the international setting-inter house tournaments, whole school assemblies and yet more fixtures.

What did the bags include? I tried to make them personal to my friends, my colleagues but generally they had vitamin tablets, sweets, chocolates, tea bags, ice coffee (Vietnamese speciality) and other assorted treats. The aim was simple, make my colleagues feel appreciated and give them the little something to make it to the end. I shared my efforts on twitter and I was delighted to see how many people responded positively. So if your friends and colleagues need a pick up which might help restore some work life balance then go for it, wellbeing bags made me happy and I didn’t even get one!

]]>**Should we keep doing interventions?**

OK so on first reading, the answer to this question is a fairly obvious yes.

I find it strange that yes is my answer. I left school in 2008 and I had never even heard of intervention. From asking my colleagues, neither have they. Admittedly, it is a poor sample. We all have good degrees from “good” universities so we are unlikely have ever required interventions at school. But even that said, as far as any of us / any of our friends know, it never existed at all, less that 10 years ago.

Now as a teacher of 5 years, it is a bit different. Doing intervention sessions for exam students in evenings / holidays is just a given for most teachers. My question is, are we actually damaging our students by running them?

My frustration with education at the moment is that I feel that not enough of the responsibility is being placed on the shoulders of our students. We read about how our students are the most stressed / suffer the most mental health problems of any students ever but we never stop to ask ourselves a very crucial question: is the reason our students feel so out of control the fact we keep re-iterating to them that their learning is out of their control?

I for one believe that students need to be told that if they succeed or fail that that is for the most part **their** doing. *(I would like to point out here that we as teachers have a responsibility to make sure students are not disadvantaged by factors outside their control e.g. personal circumstances, SEN etc.)*

I feel great frustration that students now seem to feel that they have a right to success not that they have an opportunity for success that they need to work hard to achieve. To add a personal account to this story, I arrived at a school 3 years ago and significantly changed the way students were taught physics to a way that put more responsibility on the students to learn. This lead to a massive improvement in results at the school and overall in terms of improving students as learners which was great. How did the students react? The school was flooded with complaints from parents!?!?!

This is one part of education I will never wrap my head around. We all know as practitioners that to deliver effective learning, students must be engaged and an active part of their own learning but when this is actually delivered students / parents act against it, as they have **(falsely)** been lead to believe that teacher are supposed to deliverer learning neatly packaged into learners heads.

Ok, rant over, back to the original question.

Should we be doing interventions? In lessons: YES! Absolutely, that is our responsibility as teachers to identify students that are struggling with concepts and address it. In evenings / holidays: NO! Absolutely not. Students have been given a fantastic opportunity in lessons and in resources e.g. textbooks / revision guides / internet to learn and it is frankly **ridiculous, **the number of opportunities to make use of the professional there to help them *(also known as a teacher)*. It should be clearly communicated to them that in addition to that it is their responsibility to play they part too and the best we to do that is cancel intervention sessions which basically say to the student, it is ok to check out of your education for weeks / terms / years, we will bail you out at the end.