The internet for teachers, blessing or curse? In the past, you would have a set of text books or work cards as your basic resource. The department would have bought a small library of additional books and materials from people like the ATM. If you needed a good idea, you would never have to look beyond the maths office or the maths cupboard (do you still have those?) Every department would have a pile of good physical manipulatives like centicubes and logic blocks, cuisenaire rods and probability kits. A set of large compasses and ruler for board work and a good collection of games and puzzles for activity days. There would be copies of those wonderful books by Brian Bolt (which are still available) for practical problem solving and a set of Points of Departure books for maths investigations. Always excellent, always to hand.
Now, we have the internet. At first, it seems like a boon to the busy teacher. Anything you care to teach and there will be something to give the kids. So, quickly you find the first worksheet, but it’s just not quite right and you really need a bit more of an equalities angle in the clip art … so you look again, OK, the clip art is all right, but those questions in the exercise are far too easy. OK, third try, and then fourth and then … By the time you finally give up, you could easily have written the exercise yourself onto the board and saved the paper into the bargain.
So, what does the busy teacher do? Finds a small number of sites where you can be sure of the quality. At our recent ATM London Branch conference, the rallying cry was for teachers to reclaim their profession. We are serious about maths and we are serious about how to teach it. We must not either be told how to do it, or let others do the thinking for us. So, critically, the thing of interest for the teacher is planning an excellent lesson. Clearly stuff like TenTicks, MyMaths, and PowerPointMaths and the legions of equivalents have their place when you are in a rush and don’t have time to think. But you wouldn’t have chosen teaching maths for your career if that was going to be all the time, or indeed most of the time. So, firstly, get your head around the maths, then look to find some thoughtful activities to get your students in to the mathematical ideas (what Jeremy Burke and I call ‘orientation’).
I’m writing this post now, because I have just gone through my collection of materials, written for a variety of sources over the years and am making them available free through the mathszone shop web site (www.themathszone.co.uk). It is a varied collection. Their is a collection of teaching packs, consisting of teachers notes (on how the work is structured), outline plans and student worksheets. Some of these are quite extensive, for example the ‘Quadratics‘ pack has 12 lesson and 12 homework sheets! Students explore variability using a graphical approach to look for key features which motivate the need to do the algebra. Recognition of the importance of the completed square form generates a proof of the quadratic formula. All of the materials have been used in perfectly ordinary non-selected comps and kids are fine with it … they don’t know it is supposed to be hard! There are one page sheets for strategy games, puzzles and investigations, some with worksheets some without. There is a collection of the CPD presentations I have given for NQTs, HODs and Numeracy Across the Curriculum. I hope you will find that there is enough to pout this on your short list of good places to go.
Then again, what would I recommend for the short list? Clearly you must start with NRich for exploration and real maths. Always check if there is a SMILE card for the thing you want to teach (every one was tested, revised and retested before publication). You ought to have a Standards Unit Box but if not the materials are on-line … Malcolm Swann’s use of Piagetian Conflict is lawys the best way to generate deep classroom discussion. If you just need a text book then use the CIMT books which are free and much better than any current offer from the big publishers. With those four plus The Maths Zone of course, you have everything covered. Exercise, well, heh, make them up yourself, then they are sure to work!