June 29, 2011

A Tribute

Can I just take a few minutes to talk about how completely, utterly amazing Laura Painter is?

I worked with her on PP2, and despite her being horrendously old and a bit "Country Life", we have got on really really well. She cracks me up with her jokes, and is so nice and helpful and she is an outstanding teacher who uses some "cutting-edge" techniques.

Above all, I have enjoyed working with her because she is a HUGE gossip! We have had some brilliant chats on Friday period 4 where we've put the world to rights.

I am sad to not work with her next year, but I am hoping our friendship will continue next year via emails and texts (probably on Friday nights when I'm at the pub and she texts me: "heard any new gossip yet?")

I thought I'd do a blog post rather than telling her any of this in person because I am incredibly unsentimental and I hate emotional situations. I also hate hugs (apart from Sam's hugs. They're good). But I've put enough distance between us now to reveal my true feelings about her. So Laura, this is a tribute to your amazingness. I'll miss you!


Emma x x x


June 18, 2011

The End of Emma's Adventures?

It's almost the end of the course, which means soon this blog will vanish into the deepest darkest depths of cyberspace, never to be viewed again. I know this will sadden my regular followers (by which I mean Laura P), but fear not!

Emma's Adventures in NQTland will be coming soon to a hosting site near you! Yes, I loved blogging so much this year that I will be carrying on next year, despite (gasp) it not being assessed. Saying that though, it will probably count towards some kind of CPD stuff because it will demonstrate that I am a "reflective practitioner".

Obviously on my new blog I will have to be really really careful about privacy because the whole world and his wife could read it. I will be completely professional (for once).


Just in case any of you were wondering:


How can I save my blog?

You will be able to save the content from your blog in a useful format or export your blog to another system. This facility will be available by the end of the academic year, so that you will be able to export your blog so and take it with you, even if you leave the University. This facility will be available on the manage your blog screen which can be accessed via the 'Admin' link in the right hand side of the utility bar on your blog.


I will definitely be saving my blog, it will be so cringey reading over it in a few years when I'm an experienced teacher.


June 14, 2011

Form Time

In PP2 I have been attached to a vertical tutor group of about 25 lovely pupils. I've made good relationships with most of them over the past two months, and I enjoy form time because I chat to them and we have a bit of a laugh.

But the original form tutor doesn't usually do anything with them: no circle time or games or debates or discussion of the news. I don't think there's anything wrong with this, as these things are optional at this school and there is no real guidance on what things to do in form time (apart from Wednesdays when it's silent reading, and Fridays when there's a quiz).

The problem with this is, I have had no experience of running a form time "lesson", and I know that next year (i.e. two and a half weeks from now) I will be expected to do this.

People have been blogging about good and bad maths lessons they've had, but no one has really mentioned form time. Similarly, when I talk to maths PGCEs in real life, we never seem to talk about form time, only lessons.

I'm not really sure what the point of this post is. If anyone's reading this, please could you leave a comment sharing your experiences with your form group? I'd find that really helpful.


Emma x x x


June 12, 2011

Maths People: End of Course Celebrations

EDIT 18/6/11: Apparently Jo is sorting out the Leamington side of things. I think the plan is this: go to Varsity first for a little while, to mingle with non-maths people (yuck) and so that those who want an early night and don't want to treck all the way to Leamington can still have a bit of fun. Then we will go to Leamington. I will be taking the number 12 bus (aka my second home) unless there is sufficient space in people's cars for all of us non-drivers to have lifts. The last bus home is 12:15, so that is when I will be leaving.


On the call back day there was some vague talk about going to Leamington for curry and drinks on the last day of the course (Friday 24th June).

You should have all received an email from Nick (thanks for sending that Nick - it is something we need to sort out) asking for someone who knows Leamington to suggest somewhere and make a reservation.

So if you know somewhere good in Leam, please sort something out for us and then email everyone letting us know the plans. Or if you have a better idea, I think we're all open to suggestions (I am especially open to suggestions involving Coventry, but that's just me being selfish).

I'm going to miss everyone so much when the course is over :( Please let's keep in touch!


June 10, 2011

SOHCAHTOA

Many of you have seen my amazingly awesome necklace that says SOHCAHTOA. I'm really glad I had it made, it has had a noticeable effect on all of my pupils (all years). My year sevens were really intrigued by it and really wanted to know what it meant, especially after I'd said, you'll learn about it when you're older! My smallest, cutest, highest-voiced pupil in year seven actually went home and researched it and came to me with a page of diagrams and calculations!

Walking through the corridor, I heard year 9/10/11 pupils saying "Her necklace says sohcahtoa!" and then, "What's sohcahtoa?", "It's where you have a triangle..." The pupils were revising in the corridors! Result!

Anyway, the purpose of this entry was actually to talk about the way we present the trig ratios to pupils. I've been told by HS that it's best to write sohcahtoa with the h under the o and the h under the a and the a under the o if that makes sense? But since tutoring some pupils one to one over half term, I've decided that I'm going to teach the ratios as formula triangles like they use in science. This is because I've found that grade B pupils find SOHCAHTOA questions hard, not because of the concepts are hard but because they cannot rearrange the equation sin 50 = 36/70. If you tell the them the trig ratios as a triangle, there's no rearranging involved.


The best way to teach solving equations?

I think this is one of the things that maths teachers argue over the most.

There's the "move it to the other side" method, the "do it to both sides method" and (one I'd not heard of until recently) the "cover up method".

Method 1 is what I was taught and what I use myself. I knew that it was not a very good method as it does not explain why you're doing that and how it works. I defended this method forcefully, sure that my way of thinking must be the best way (I'm arrogant like that). But since teaching both methods at my placement school, and teaching different methods to my one-to-one tutees, I've come to realise that the second method is much less confusing, more intuitive, and more memorable.

Here is how I would write a model solution:

3x + 5 = 10

    - 5      -5

3x       = 5

3x/3    = 5/3 (written as fractions)

And then I'd cross out the two threes in the fraction on the left because they cancel each other out.

Writing the -5 underneath makes it really easy for pupils to see what they're doing and it's really hard to make a mistake.

Doing the dividing bit as fractions is good because it encourages pupils to leave things as fractions, it makes division easier (instead of actually dividing, just cancel down the fraction as far as you can in easy steps), and it means that the whole side will be divided and not just the last term.

That is the method I would recommend for higher-tier pupils.

The cover-up method is one I cam across recently and I think it's really good because it's the way a pupil would intuitively try to work out the answer.

In equations like 10 - x =7, most pupils can just "see" that the answer is 3. In equations like 3x + 4 = 10, it's harder to just seei it, but using the cover up method you can. Cover up the 3x, and say "what add 4 gives you 10?" They'll say 6. Then you uncover the 3x and say, "well then 3x must be 6. So what's one x?" And they'll say 2 (after painstakingly counting on their fingers, if they're anything like my pupils!)

I wouldn't teach higher tier pupils this because it's hard to apply it to more complicated equations (although it obviously still works). But for lower ability pupils it seems to be less confusing.

I'm glad I'm starting to realise what methods I'm going to be teaching because I want to be consistent, so that pupils don't get confused with lots of different methods.


June 08, 2011

AP3 Result

I know the deadline for SCT6 has passed, but I love blogging and I'm not going to stop just because it doesn't count for anything now.

Today my mentor and I discussed and filled in my AP3 form. I was really nervous, because my final grade was going to be decided and I didn't know whether I'd hit my target yet. But I did! Yep, I'm the proud owner of a grade 1!!

I feel like I've made a lot of progress in the past few weeks, and just recently I've been planning much better lessons. I now constantly refer to the ofsted criteria for outstanding lessons whenever I plan a lesson, and make sure I try to hit them all (of course, some of these get lost in my sometimes shambolic delivery of the lesson) which is actually quite easy.


As for those year 11 booster sessions I'd been dreading - the first one on Monday was absolutely fine. Enjoyable, even. I'm actually somewhat looking forward to the five hour session tomorrow!

Just two weeks left! And I've got some great stuff planned: cryptography project with my year sevens, and some practical, outdoor loci stuff with year 8. I'll have some nice relaxed lessons for my year tens so they can recover from the exams.


Emma x x x


June 04, 2011

May Subject Knowledge

I know I've not been brilliant at blogging about my subject knowledge development, but in all fairness, that's because I pretty much never do any subject knowledge development. I probably shouldn't be admitting to that though, should I?

But I have actually done quite a lot this month, so I may as well blog about it.

Mechanics 1:

I took M1 myself back in 06/07. And I did pretty well, although it was my lowest mark (91%. Yes I know I'm bragging). However, when one of my tutees asked me to help him with his M1 resit, I was nervous. Especially as I did MEI's M1, which does not contain a lot of the stuff in Edexcel's M1, like momentum, which I'd never heard of until RWP's session on it. So before teaching my tutee anything, I first had to teach myself.

My first port of call when it comes to revising A level maths is always the MEI Integral website. However, as I've already said, MEI's mechanics is very different from Edexcel's. So I went on My Maths, which has an A level section containing M1, S1 and D1, as well as the cores. I did all of the online homeworks, and looked at the lessons, which were very helpful.

I now feel comfortable teaching Edexcel's M1, which is completely irrelevant to me because the school I'm at next year does MEI. But it was nice to learn something new. It was helpful to metacognise a bit, and think about how I learnt this new stuff, and what I found helpful. This will help me teach sixth formers in the future.

GCSE:

I have two tutees who are taking AQA's Higher module 5 exams on Monday and Friday. I really enjoyed going through these past papers: there's no tedious number work like there is on Edexcel's foundation linear paper (so much frac dec perc! So boring!) and it's all lovely algebra and trig and a bit of geometrical reasoning. I could do everything on these papers off the top of my head apart from one thing: angle bisectors. I knew it had something to do with a compass, so I drew a few random arcs until I sort of derived the correct method. I've since checked this out online and found I was correct, so that's good.


Emma x x x


May 17, 2011

Reflections on AP2

It was decided by me and my mentor that I have now met every standard, so I got all of those ticked off on my AP2 form. So that's a good start.

Strengths from section one:

-Good relationships with young people (my pupils mostly seem to like me)

-Very positive communication skills (although I'm very shy about talking to other members of staff still. However, I have improved massively since starting at my PP2 school).

-PPD is a definite strength (I am good at evaluating, improving, reflecting, coming up with new ideas)

Strengths from section two:

-Good subject knowledge (natch)

-Good assessment records (I do the whole APP thing)

-Good teaching and learning (but not outstanding, yet)

Strengths from section three:

-Good planning (when I get round to it)

-Establishes a good learning environment (a huge improvement from PP1)

Grades: 2, 2, 2, 2 (2). Target grade: 1.

I really really really want my final grade to be a 1, so I've drawn up an action plan for hitting all those criteria. Now I need to get my head down and try my best.

Emma x x x


May 04, 2011

How Lewis Carroll Would Vote Tomorrow

I've mentioned in a previous post that I love Lewis Carroll. He combines two of my favourite things: books and maths (Lewis Carroll is the pen name of mathematician Charles Dodgson. Please keep up!)

Dodgson became involved in college elections in the early 1870s at Oxford university where he was a professor. He became interested in the theory of voting, of the accuracy and fairness of different voting systems.

First Past The Post

Dodgson was not a fan of this voting system. He claimed "the extraordinary injustice of this Method may be very easily demonstrated". He then gives an example to show how stupid it is:

Suppose there are 11 electors and 4 candidates a, b, c and d. Each elector ranks the four candidates in order of preference. The 11 columns here show their choices:

a
a
a
b
b
b
b
c
c
c
d
c
c
c
a
a
a
a
a
a
a
a
d
d
d
c
c
c
c
d
d
d
c
b
b
b
d
d
d
d
b
b
b
b

It's easy to see that a is considered best by three of the electors and second best by the rest. But in actual fact, it is b who ends up winning, even though he/she was considered the worst by seven voters.

I don't think Dodgson looked at "Alternative Vote", alothough he did write about lots of other systems.

The Method of Elimination

In this method, each voter chooses their favourite, and then the one who gets the fewest votes is eliminated, and the process is repeated (a bit like Big Brother? The TV show, not the Orwellian thing). This method at first seems pretty flawless. However, consider the following situation:

b
b
b
c
c
c
d
d
d
a
a
a
a
a
a
a
a
a
a
a
b
c
d
c
d
b
b
b
c
c
b
d
d
c
d
c
d
d
d
b
b
c
c
b

Notice that a is everybody's first or second choice, and hence appears to be the best candidate. However, he/she will be eliminated first. c will be elected instead.

The Method of Marks

In this method, each voter is given a specified number of marks that they can divide between the candidates. Then the candidate who gets the most marks wins. Dodgson said that this method would be perfect as long as the voters divided their marks fairly: giving most to their favourite but some to the candidates that they wouldn't mind electing. But Dodgson commented that "since we are not sufficiently unselfish and would assign all our votes to our favourite candidate, the method is liable in practice to conicide with that of the simple majority [first past the post] which has already been shown to be unsound".


So how would Lewis Carroll vote tomorrow? I think he would vote no to AV. Because I think he'd think that AV is better than the current system, but still not good enough. If we vote in AV, we'll have no chance of getting Single Transferable Vote, because we'd have to spend a few decades getting used to AV before referendumming again, and I think he'd think STV was a far superior system.


Emma x x x

All quotes are from Robin Wilson's "Lewis Carroll in Numberland", a book I highly recommend.



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