Week 5 – My First Starter (& Some Cake…)

This week has been the best so far on my PGCE. I’m really getting into the groove of being in school, getting to know the department and my classes. I’m absolutely loving it.

OK, I have a never ending To Do list and by Thursday I am so tired I cry because I drop OXO cubes with the foil on into my chilli… But actually the good outweighs these things by insane amounts. Most days, I come home smiling and dance around the kitchen while cooking dinner and telling my boyfriend about all the things that have happened in my day. And that is a distinct change from my last job. ‘Thursdays’ were a lot more prevalent in that one…

Monday was the Maths Department Bake Off. Being only ‘part time’ in school meant I missed the memo about ti being a brownie contest, and instead made this cake….


Suffice to say, I won because it was not a brownie and we were all brownie-d out, and it was blooming delicious. I also had a lot of interesting conversations surrounding its use to teach symmetry and properties of circles (you make it by cutting out circles of different radii you see!). Ever the mathematician, even when cake is involved. Though I’m sure that using the cake as a resource would draw away from subject content and pupils (and teachers!) would lean towards eating and discussing GBBO…

Tuesday saw me teaching my very first starter to my year 10 class. I’d planned over weekend and discussed a lot with my mentor (also their current class teacher). I was feeling confident. I’d picked a card sort for basic algebra, based around one from Resourceaholic’s with a few additions for the complexities they had covered/to be really evil and catch them out, and planned to start with a bit of a brain-teaser puzzle I’d found on twitter over the weekend:


I won’t give you the answer, because I don’t want to spoil it but feel free to tweet me if you want to check yours or because its frustrating you more than anything in the world ever (@arithmaticks)

Both of my tasks went down really well. No-one managed to solve the puzzle but it encouraged a lot of discussion and a lot of ‘oh my gosh it’s not even really maths, Miss’ when I revealed the answers.

The card sort did exactly the same thing, and the pairs were really talking about their answers. There were a lot of misconceptions, including people sorting a x a = a^2 and a x a = 2a BOTH into the true column. I took note of all these things and tried to discuss them at the end, and encouraged self-checking by letting them know how many cards fit into each column. I also tried to make sure I never GAVE the answer when I was helping pupils, trying to guide them there with their own understanding and I think I did that well as it was picked up as a good point by my mentor.

My comments from her overall were really positive, and really made me feel positive about the lesson. Her only negative matched my own, that I could have had the answers on the PowerPoint to make the ‘debrief’ discussion a little easier. I also decided I needed to learn the names of the pupils in the class ASAP – it made questioning very difficult, especially in a class where pupils are reluctant to volunteer answers. But overall I felt very positive about it, and the negatives are things I can work on and resolve in future… Including never doing such a large card sort with a large class again.


“Next time I say card sort… you say NO”

Wednesday was a very different sort of day, and saw me stepping out of the comfort of the Mathematics department as I followed a Year 8 Student for the day. I took part in lessons in RS, Science, English, German and our usual Maths lesson. It was amazing to see the school from a student’s perspective and I was able to get to know C’s thoughts on the school in general. It also afforded me the opportunity to learn some names in my maths class and get to know the pupils better, as there is a lot of cross-over in sets. This should stand me in good stead for this week when I take my first starter with that class.

Again, on Thursday and Friday I was sad to not be in my placement school, but had a lot of fun in my Hub and Uni sessions discussing numeracy and literacy, thinking skills and alternative ways of resourcing. On Thursday, we had a session with Roundhay Maths, playing around with tarsias, treasure hunts and making circle theorems with hula-hoops and string. It really helped to being maths to life a bit more and I hope to bring all those strategies into my own class.

The Thinking Skills session at Uni was also great. Seeing these strategies in action showed what an asset they could be in the classroom, and I’ve actually planned one into my starter with year 10 on Monday!

This weekend has been filled with planning and reflecting on uni sessions so far. Punctuated with a ‘fakeaway’, mindless TV shows and a bottle of Prosecco for date night.

I’ve now got big plans to update my Standards Profile and do some reading for Assignment 1. Rock and roll!

I hope you have all had marvellous weeks, and aren’t working too hard over the weekend 🙂

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