AfL, MCQ’s and misconceptions

One site I have been using a lot is diagnostic questions. The site takes some of the thinking out of misconceptions, sometimes it addresses misconception I wouldn’t have thought of.

Here’s how I use it, example lesson BIDMAS

After my connect activity and getting the learners to do something like 3+5×4  incorrectly I move onto a ”round the room activity”. For this I label each corner of the room with letters ABCD (I write the letters onto the windows and doors with a dry wipe pen).

I then put this question up on the board and ask the students to stand in the corner of their choice (at this point all the students have wipe boards to do their working)


I then ask students stood in the wrong corners to explain their answers and how they got to them and then bounce that around the room at other students, it works pretty well. I think what makes this work is that I have quite a good culture of “mistakes are good”.

Other ways I have used this is;

With Plickers (iPad) – I will do a blog post on this at some point in the week.

As corrections – Students put the question and the 4 answers in the middle of their page and annotate (in green pen) which is wrong and what mistake they have made (worked great with expanding single brackets using one misconception at a time).

Big paper – I also used this with a big piece of paper on the desk (flipchart paper) and the students each had different coloured pens and the questions were stuck onto a piece of paper, then they annotated the hell out of the piece of paper saying where misconceptions were and what was correct etc. The different coloured pens for each students deterred he lazy ones being lazy as I could see if they had done no work.



Alternative Mathematics Qualifications

Hi All,

I hope this post finds you well. I have put together a quick list of alternatives to GCSE Mathematics, some to start in the future and some to be scrapped with the new government changes. The main reason I have put together this list is primarily for anyone looking for different approaches to asking different styles of questions. Whilst planning a lesson on reading from tables today I found some very very easy questions in the Level 1 Qualifications and some quirky problem solving-esque style questions in some of the Level 2 or Level 3 Qualifications.

Please can I take this opportunity to say thank you to AQA & WJEC for a modern, easy to use websites that are fantastic. EDXCEL and OCR – get your act together!






I thought I’d share some of my experiences over my time as a teacher as a part of the tell Nicky twitter campaign.

1. I have been up at least 3 times a week past 12 doing school related tasks most weeks.

2. On the nights that I don’t spend doing this I am in bed for 10 due to the sheer exhaustion of the night or day previous.
3. On the night mentioned in point 2 I feel guilty and feel like I am letting the pupils down or doing something wrong.

4. I regularly think of leaving teaching as I wonder what it would be like to go home and not think about work other than to be annoyed at being up early. No planning, no intervention plans, just free time (sounds amazing!)

5. I often wonder when the endless spout of pointless buzz words and useless paperwork will end. If it isn’t having a direct impact on teaching and learning that is an effective use of the time it takes to do then frankly I don’t want to do it. Eg. If it takes 4 hours to make a document for one class that is just for ofsted then I see that as a complete waste of everyone’s time.

In my opinion the government needs to act.

This is my simple message to the DfE.  It’s all well and good setting up maths hubs and such like but I think you are missing one clear trick. Invest in a positive bank of online teacher resources that is useful. Get the top teachers and top Web developers and create resources that work and direct people to practical advice on marking, assessment, support and CPD. I understand that research driven education is the way forward but why release a new initiative with a new acronym to remember if staff on the ground are only just properly resourcing the last “big thing”.

Cut workload.
Increase pay in line with average.
Scrap PRP.
Give us back our profession.

Advice to 2014/15’s NQT’s

Hi all,

I wanted this blog to be a weekly reflection on my lessons and how I feel as a first year teacher, that didn’t happen.

I feel that I am in a good position, having just done my NQT year, to give some advice to the next cohort of newly qualified teachers.

1. Get organised early (before start)

Get all the lessons that you have “borrowed” from your placement schools and organise them in a logical way. I know that there is no one way to do this as there are so many variables, but have a try. Get at least your first weeks lessons planned (possibly two) and get the photocopying in early, be nice to your reprographics staff early in the year and they will reward you tenfold later, last minute copying before an observation for example. Make sure you know your timetable, classes SoW and who your mentors are (find these out before you go in). Finally, get your weeks sorted (marking, meetings, interventions).

2. Get the professional look (before start)

Dress professionally and take pride in your appearance. Guys usually go for a suit or posh jumper with posh pants… always SHIRT AND TIE. Gals, I’m no expert in this field but dress appropriately.

3. Get into your room (before start)

If you are lucky enough to have your own room, as I was, make sure that it has the look and feel that you want. My top tips are – have your displays done, have at least 3 dry wipe board pens stashed out of sight of students, have a spare board wipe (60p white dishcloths from spar are amazing!), get a little flicky slide show remote and make sure it works and (controversially) have a spare on/off/freeze board remote… these are gold dust in most schools but as you’re an NQT the ICT guys will be nice, go to them after 2weeks of teaching and claim you have lost your board remote (hide it), this way when someone pinches yours (which they will if your school is like mine) you will have one, the frustration you face when you can’t do the register while the connect/hook/starter activity is on the board is unparalleled.

4. The first day (at start)

It is normal not to get much sleep the night before your first day, it is normal to get a shower at 5 in the morning on your first day, it is normal to turn up to school for your first ever day and be the first one in the car park, sweaty palmed, looking around thinking “today is the start of school, right?”. There will be a lot happening on your first day, different processes for discipline, form, breaks, duties, lunch, in-between lessons, book standards etc etc. Have a little note pad and PENCIL in your pocket ready to whip out and jot little things down with (pencil because a pen will heat up and “explode” against your leg). When in the car park look for someone smartly dressed who looks like a teacher and introduce yourself, every member of staff I have spoken to on the first day has been welcoming and helpful. Finally, take 15minutes at the end of the day to reflect on how your first day went, concentrate mainly on the positives.

5. First lesson

In your first lesson you need to get a few things done; introduce yourself, names on books, ground rules and expectations. I made the mistake of spending almost the entire lesson doing mostly non-maths related “stuff`”. Do not do this. Have a lot of maths content. Maybe finish off with a name memory game.

6. First few weeks

GET ON TWITTER! Make yourself a twitter account and get on twitter in your first few weeks of teaching, it has proven invaluable to me. You will find out the latest news and also get some great tips. Talk to everyone and don’t prejudge, the other teachers in your department will be able to help with a lot – they were NQT’s once. People across different departments will also help you with a lot. The main things I asked about in my first few weeks were; where things are, how someone recommended teaching a certain topic and classes. Know that every student you teach is being taught by someone else, if they play up for you then its likely that they play up for others (but not everyone), ask around the people who teach that person and ask what works for them, who the pupil sits with etc (ask their head of year, previous teacher in your subject and form tutor). Some of the most disruptive pupils have turned into some of the best with the smallest of changes. Lastly, learn all of your students name and use them, it gives a personal touch and they really respond well to this, you will learn your 2 most eager and 2 most “annoying” students name in the first lesson (guaranteed, unless they are off).


Go to a cheap shop (home bargains, pound stretcher, ebay) and get some small £1 notebooks (flowers and pink for girls, cars and blue for’t lads). If you get someone who is disruptive in your class (a real extrovert) and you have tried your schools behaviour process a few times including detentions… give them the book and take them aside for a second. Tell them that they are responsible for making sure that rewards and sanctions are recorded for that class in that book, day per page. Say this person is called Emily and you give Tom a warning then Emily would write down Tom – W or if you say “well done Tom, have a merit” she would write Tom – M. Tell them they will get a reward if they get it right. This technique has worked wonders with some kids that regularly disturbed lessons and made little progress due to being sent out. Try it 🙂

7. Gossip

DO NOT get caught in idle staffroom gossip. Teachers are worse than kids for rumours, gossip and “bitching”. Unless it is positive try your best not to voice an opinion as it could put you in a awkward situation afterwards. “I don’t know” is what I usually say if people say something to me that is negative. Stay professional and keep your chin up.

8. Paperwork

Get a small folder to keep all your paperwork in, and I mean all of it. I didn’t do this last year and I wish I did. Any handouts from meetings, information given to you by Heads of Year/Departments… KEEP IT ALL! The amount of times I have been given a seemingly unimportant a4 piece of paper that I have chucked in the bin and regretted is countless, keep it all.

9. Enjoy yourself

This is the career that you have chosen to do, you have done your training, got your degree, secured a job… most of the work is done! Enjoy yourself. Be yourself. I have found teaching pretty tough but I have enjoyed it thus far. Kids are amazing to be around, it is so rewarding to see someone enjoying

Tweet me to ask anything @mathsdirectory

Use my site to find new resources. Comment in the comment thing below.

Good luck!

Mr B

My response to Vince Cable saying ‘Teachers know absolutely nothing about the world of work’

Mr Cable, thank you for yet another degrading comment about my profession. We really don’t get enough of these.

You are completely correct. We know nothing of the world of work. We know nothing of going home and not having to plan lessons in detail to allow the success of the every growing, ever changing population that we serve. We know nothing of going home for a weekend and not feeling guilty for having a day off. We know nothing of the safety net of the law when abuse is hurdled at us by the people we are trying to help. WE KNOW NOTHING!


May I suggest that you know nothing about the ins and outs of being a teacher. May I ask you to think about the amount of pressure we are under as professionals to uphold the highest of standards while being judged by everyone who has an opinion on education, which seems to be everyone. May I ask you to think before criticising hard working graduates that have chosen to pursue a profession that develops the future of this country. 


Personally, I am sick and tired of hearing how schools are blamed for any and every problem that a young person may face. I hear continually on television, radio and through other media how schools should build every possible life skill into the curriculum. May I remind anyone reading this who is not a teacher that we are educators to the young people in our care, we are not their parents. 

I have never met a teacher that doesn’t work his/her socks off to try and get the best out of the young people in their care. If you could please take time to consider the implications of a job where the goalposts are moved every election to try to win votes, where catering to your clients needs is not simply meeting one specification of work at one time, but delivering differentiated individualised outcomes to a continually changing demographic.

Please consider what it is like to be told by anyone outside the profession that “you get too many holidays”, when aforementioned holidays are spent rigorously planning lessons, marking test paper and trying not to feel guilty for taking a single day off to relax. I have never felt happy to spend any prolonged period of time doing anything that doesn’t benefit my students. 


Teachers know absolutely nothing about the world of work, we work hard enough for other people that we do not have the luxury of living in the real ‘world of work’.


Please, everyone, think carefully before making sweeping and unjust comments about the profession that is creating a future for this country. 

Behaviour in schools – my perspective

I have been inspired to write this post after reading an article on the guardians website called secret teacher.

I have decided, at 10:51 (early night), that I am a fence sitter. When it comes to behavioural management in schools I am the worst person to have a discussion with because I cannot decide where I stand. Well, I can but some of the ideologies have conflicting statements and I tend to contradict myself alot.

Behaviour in a lot of schools is getting out of hand. The kids come to school, ruin lessons and cause havoc. This is clearly not got for the school as a whole as it disrupts the learning of others. So what do we do? Kick them out? Give them a 5th after school detention when they failed to attend the previous 4 and each lesson another gets added to the lost which accumulates into what eventually becomes an infinite amount of detentions! Wasting my time to sit with someone who constantly undermines, interrupts and bullies you! Maybe.

Or do you try to nurture them, be kind to them and hope they realise that you are after all a human also, you are trying to help them and eventually release them and give them potential to be whatever they desire to be.

In my opinion, if you don’t try to do the second one first in a detention or a non – classroom environment away from the peer pressures then there is something wrong. Disagree if you want,  these are my opinions, you have yours.

For a school to succeed in creating a good standard of behavioural management there needs to be a few things in place. Again, this is my own opinion.

1. A good rewards policy that is consistently and easily implemented across all curriculum areas.
2. A clear behaviour policy that again is consistently implemented across all subjects.
3. Good in house communication systems that allow teachers to easily see what issues are with what students and strategies that work with those students.
4. Regular communication with home
5. All of the above that is implemented in such a way that classroom teachers aren’t spending hours of their day doing any of the above.

On a final note I’d like to add that some behaviours, although unacceptable, are clearly what I call “because I can” behaviours. Let’s be honest, most of the teaching profession (generalising statement, sorry to those who arnt) are extroverts. We love attention, we are loud and we love to talk. We wouldn’t dream of misbehaving in a briefing with SLT, but if your best friends from the pub were in the meeting with you, and you knew the consequences would in no way be serious enough to cause you any long term damage or risk, would you be tempted to maybe mess about?

All the best,
Mr B 

What/who inspired me to get into teaching?

I have been inspired to write this post after reading a blog post by Rachel Jones (@rlj1981). I have also made three decisions. 1 – I will start posting more, 2 – I will start targeting my posts more on specific topic (not only to stop me going on about the randomness of my days but also as a professional development and reflection tool), and 3 – I have decided to change the name of my blog from mathsnqt2013 to maths directory. This is for because of my website and also because I can see this blog going massively past my NQT year as it starts to pick up (i hope it keeps picking up)


The main person who inspired me to become a maths teacher was my dad. Your probably thinking, WHAT A SHOCK! I know a lot of people are inspired by their parents or relatives but I was genuinely inspired to teach by my dad. Is my dad a teacher? No. Is he an academic? No. Is he any good at anything more than basic maths? Not really. 

My dad started out as a farmer, working at the weekend to help raise money for the family (we’re talking 50+ years ago). He left school early to work more as the family household was struggling for money and also as his employer promised to send him to college 3days a week to do an agricultural course and get a qualification, this never happened. Instead he worked and worked. Eventually he became manager of a farm and started making a decent wage, nothing brilliant, but he could live off it. Then I came along. Even before going to primary school my dad taught me some basic number work and used whatever he could find to show me the key concepts and try to get this young boy to understand. He helped me all the way through primary and secondary school where he could and pushed me as far as I could go. This is why I became a teacher. He gave me determination, respect for my elders and above all else a strong work ethic. I am eternally grateful to him.

The most inspiring teachers I have ever had the pleasure of being taught by are easy to name, and I they will forever stick in my mind. Mr Parry (high school science teacher) and Debbie Cornelius (college physics teacher). Mr Parry was funny, intuitive and made science fun. Debbie Cornelius is the single most inspirational teacher I have met. Debbie had an infectious smile and always had a can do attitude, even towards the failing a-level student, me. 

I hope that I inspire others to be the best that they can be. That is why I am a teacher. Not to get my pupils grades, so that they can be the best that can. I want to push the pupils to be the best, give them the self belief that others gave me. Some of the pupils that I, and you, teach come from truly horrific situations, with no role models. I want to be that role model that pupils can look up to (at 5″5 could be a challenge). I guess what i’m saying is that I want all of the young people in my care to have the tools, both academically and personally, to create their own paths in life and have the courage and attitude to aim highly and believe in themselves, and even if for just a second I am just a small part in creating a persons success or happiness, I will feel that I have done my job.

Thanks for reading, 

Mr B

Update 2 – Half way in

WOW! What a trip it has been to get this far. Ups and downs, more changes than I could have ever imagined and every day different to the last.


First off I’d like to tell anyone reading this that is about to be OFSTEDed and has never been through an OFSTED before, one simple thing. Do not panic. I have bad anxiety when it comes to doing things for the first time and OFSTED was no different to any other time. The night before was a nightmare. I wanted all my books to be perfect, my lessons throughout the day to have that extra umph and I wanted my room to look the bees knees. I stayed up until gone 2 o clock (partly because I was playing the roll of taxi driver for my fiancés xmas works party). The inspection lasted over 2 days, for the first half of the first day the inspectors stayed in the heads office with the senior staff discussing acronyms. They then came out and started observations, almost everyone was observed on the first day and I thought i was in the clear but still i stayed up past 12 that night prepping the days resources (a full day of lessons too). I was observed and this is where i’d like people to pay close attention to what happened during my observation. The inspector was already in my room as another teacher was being observed before me and she stayed in there with that teacher for 5minutes of my lesson giving feedback while my pupils and I waited outside, I was sweaty palmed and clammy and did not feel good at all. The pupils sat down and the lesson went smoothly, people were out of their seats doing things and they made progress in the first 20minutes and yada yada yada but the inspector was more interested in talking to the kids about their books, progress and where they are and where they are going. The inspector also had my tracking and intervention folder which she took a good 15minutes looking through with some pleasing looks. I was surprised, there I was pulling out all the stops to deliver an all singing all dancing lesson while the inspector who was “observing my lesson” was reading through notes on how pupil X has a statement for behaviour. If I was to give one piece of advice it would be not to concentrate on delivering a lesson that took 2hours to work out, 1 hour cutting and laminating and 30minutes putting it all into pretty little information packs. Spend the time making sure your tracking, progress and intervention folder is up to date.

We were also inspected by the DfE (department for education). This is something that I could not find any information about, so when I received an all staff email telling me about the inspection I was clueless. It is pretty much like an OFSTED inspection but the DfE have more power. They are looking at the schools improvement plan, interventions in key areas and performance as a whole. The inspector did observe some lessons briefly but for the most part he just did a few tours of our academy and popped his head in as far as I am aware. It was equally as scary for me but was not something that, on the day, deserved the nerves that I had felt.


Parents evening was also something that I was scared of. In fact, scared is an understatement, I was petrified. I only had 13 parents as it was a year 11 only parents evening. All of the parents where very nice and supportive or what I was doing in school and really wanted to help push their children to do the best they could. I must say, I enjoyed the experience.


I am going to try to put a few more posts on here, mainly to do with my folders that I am keeping and also the progress management tools I have found. The academy has also invested into some programs that I have not come across so I will be reviewing those in detail. I have a massive dropbox account which I am going to start sharing resources on. I’d love for anyone who is interested in collaborating on resources to get in touch via @mathsdirectory  on twitter.


All the best for now readers.


Mr B





Hi All!

Sorry that there hasn’t been many blog posts this week. I am enjoying my first week of full timetable teaching however the planning is starting to get on top of me. I am a very very busy person and I am looking forward to Friday 3:00 where I can breathe a little easier. 

There is a lot of paperwork to do as OFSTED are coming in soon however this is not a massive concern of mine as I will do it when I have time at the weekend, for the moment my priority is building positive relationships with the pupils in my care and learning where they are in the grand scheme of things. As far as behavioural management goes I have had a set 1 class line up 4 times outside the classroom and it took me about 15minutes to get the register done however this said they are now my favourite class as they are straight in and quiet now. 

Although the bags under my eyes are growing, my sleep time is lessening and my energy is needing a serious boost… I am still very optimistic and enthusiastic. 

I love my job and want to make a difference to the young people I come into contact with. 

That is all for now as I still have 2 lessons to plan for tomorrow, I hope you are all well.


Mr B

Inset day – first one ever!


So, as many of you know I had my first ever inset day today and I would love to share my thoughts.

It has been a very very long time since I have seen before 11am, but today I saw 6:30! I woke up to find that I had no milk and therefore no porridge! But that’s not very interesting is it?

I arrived at the car park of my new workplace at 7:50, 40minutes early. I had dressed pretty professionally with everything I would usually wear for teaching, without the tie. This, on reflection, was a little mistake as most teachers had taken a much more relaxed approach to their clothes. 

In the car, waiting in the car park, I felt sick, nervous, shaky… just generally like I was about to be walked into a death sentence. I decided to go in 15minutes early and was welcomed by a host of teachers, non of which I knew… very friendly bunch!

The day consisted of various meetings and documents, power points and presentations and copious amounts of coffee. I thoroughly enjoyed the day and cannot wait to start my teaching post. 

Sorry for the short post today, I am very tired!

I’ll check back in soon…

Bye for now,

Mr B