Category Archives: teaching


Being able to work with Spreadsheets is an important skill for today.

Today you would be crazy to do any sort of accounting and financial management or data analysis without spreadsheets!

Knowing how to get the spreadsheet to complete multiple calculations powerfully, being able to change input and have the roll on effect etc etc!

“Spreadsheets!” not just “excel”: spreadsheets take many different forms today. The activity in this post is actually a Google Spreadsheet which works the same as Excel but in the browser. They can also be collaborative and also saved as excel when you want!

A spreadsheet activity for all:

This activity for making a start on spreadsheets but also building a good skill set to really getting going with spreadsheets. The same spreadsheet can be used for the very first steps right through to those that are strong at spreadsheeting. The activity has built and refined over many years and has built in extension tasks for those that move faster.

What is covered?

In the activity you will be investigating and hopefully demonstrating an understanding of:

  • how to get spreadsheets to do the medial collecting, counting and calculating work
  • the components of a spreadsheet
  • patterns in spreadsheets
  • creating functions in Spreadsheets
  • filling patterns and functions into other cells
  • “absolute” and “relative” referencing of cells (Yep! Google it!)
  • Statistical functions for Quantitative data (remember which one quantitative was!)
  • frequency distribution tables in a more powerful way
  • further functions like standard deviation (extension)
  • categorical data and the limited statistics available

Future tasks will This task will be required knowledge for the next stage which is creating effective surveys/questionnaires, collecting data via online forms then graphing and reflecting on your results.

The Activity:

As a Google Spreadsheet:
Click on the link make sure you are logged into your Google account. Go to the “File” Menu and “make a copy”

For those without Google Accounts:
Click on the link Go to “File” Menu and  select “download as” and choose “Microsoft excel”

NOTE: spreadsheets and iPads are still not a good combination. Hopefully this will change soon! Stay Tuned!


A good Tool?!!:

There has been a lot of debate about resources like Khan Academy and similar sites and whether or not they are good for learning. An explore of the updated site would no doubt make anyone think though with a range of options for learning or practising maths (and other subjects!!!!)

The refreshed site has interaction and tailoring for learners with feedback, hints and help as exercise are done. As a teacher/mentor the “coach” area also allows tasks to be set for those who have signed up for your classes AND you can see the interactions of those in your classes including exactly what was done, how long was taken on each area, what other resources were used, when the question was completed etc etc. More on the coach section soon!

Khanacademy has moved past being a series of lecture style videos to now be an interactive, engaging tool that is enjoyable to use with powerful feedback.

The real-life questions is impressive (always challenging as a Mathematics teacher!) BUT it is the opportunity for a tailored experience help that make it powerful, especially for the student that will not ask for help! There is no judgement as students can watch video help as many times as they like.

A good measure is always how learners engage and so far the uptake has been superb and the tailored feedback and recommendations seem to be valuable.

Alright, the question has probably been answered! YES this tool is worthwhile (and certainly worth the money as it is free!)

OK so let’s get into it:

It is free and can be used without an account BUT having an account allows you to track your progress and earn rewards. You can easily create an account with an email OR you can sign in with Facebook or Google. The latter allows us to create accounts without having to remember another username and password. If your school has a google apps for education account then this is very cool as it means you can use the same username and password as for other school log ins, #whoohoo

Setting up an account:

You can set up an account with an email address or Facebook or Google. Setting up with Google is ideal for schools with Google Apps for Education accounts, the instructions are as follows:
– Make sure you are logged in to your correct account. (Ie. your school account!)
– Go to and hit the “sign in with google account” button.
– It is best if students go into their setting as and make their viewable name to be their actual name for feedback and follow up!

The pretest!

An initial pretest gives the user a starting point and recommend tasks to be done next. It is worth doing the pretest well without any help and also tick the box to say if the work has not been done before.

Coach and/or be coached!:

Now the cool bit! CLASSES! you can set up a class and track all the activity and progress of your students!
Become a coach:
* Go to “coach” in the top menu
* then “manage students” > “create class”
* it gives a code that students can use to sign up to a class!
Join a class!
Students can be added in manually by their coach OR they go to main menu>coaches>add a coach and drop a code in! VOILA!!!!

Other Notes:

– it works splendidly on iPads too including the “scratchpad” where you can write on the screen!
– students can keep their account through to uni as it covers content from year 6 to University!!!

We will also follow up with a post on the “coach area” and tools and also a post on the coding options that run in parallel in the computer science area. Hopefully you have great experiences with KhanAcademy as we have. Please comment below to share your experiences. 

Group Work in Maths

Why group Work?

By introducing Group activities to your classroom or even rearranging your desks into groups, you are giving your students an entirely different insight into learning.

Group work allows students to gain an understanding and experience into how tasks are completed in the work place. It also gives students a chance to learn and develop important skills; communication, ability to listen, question other thinking, persuade, respect the opinions of others and share ideas.

Types of Group Work.

Group Work is often thought of as a method of having students work together to create a project or collective piece of work, where each student has contributed equally.

In practice this very rarely works, with some students often taking the lead, and others happy to sit there and enjoy the ride. Group Work does not have to involve projects or huge collaborative pieces of work. It could be that you just have your students working in groups for a starter activity or a single task during a lesson.

Breaking into Groups:

Students can be sat in Groups but still work independently. By doing this students can take advantage of some of the skills that can be developed using group work such as sharing ideas, communication and questioning and thinking.

This can often be one of the difficult parts of organising a group activity. Firstly you need to determine how you want your groups organised and ask yourself what you are hoping each student will gain from working in a group. This will depend upon the class and the activity that is taking place.

Pairs – Do you want a high achiever with a less able student to act as a mentor. Or pair together students of similar ability and differentiate the tasks for each pair.

Using pairs of cards is a great way of dividing a class into pairs, whilst still giving you control over who is paired with who (or to keep apart students you don’t want to be paired together). Below are a few ideas:

1. Create a class set of cards each containing a question. This needs to be done so that each answer is repeated. Students are given a card and work out the answer to the question, they must then find their partner who has the same answer as them. This is then their partner for the lesson. Alternative idea – Cut subject/topic related pictures in half to be used in place of cards. Students have to match their half up with a class mates to form the picture. There can then be a task related to this such as: ENGLISH – each partner needs to write a descriptive piece on their complete picture. GEOGRAPHY – cut countries in half and students have to find their country on a world map and research certain information about it.

Groups of 3 or more (My favourite is 3 for a collaborative group task, usually find with 4 that a student can often be left with very little to do). Again how do you want the groups to be split, each member of the group being of similar ability or each group being mixed. Maybe you just want to change the seating plan and can use a group activity to do so.

1. Jigsaw – Similar to above, assign each group a problem/puzzle (maths), a piece of art (Visual Art) or an animal (science), making sure each can be represented visually usually on a piece of A4 paper. Print each one out and cut into the desired number of pieces (3 if you want groups of 3, 4 for groups of 4 etc). Hand these out to the students as they enter the room, where they then have to organise themselves into their groups and complete a task based on their image/problem/puzzle. By making each groups jigsaw different it allows you to pick and choose which students go together (differentiation) or which students you keep apart by giving them each pieces of a different image/problem/puzzle.

2. Burgers – Yes Burgers! This is a fun way for students to split themselves into groups. To split your class into groups of 4 the link is here. Or groups of 3 click here. This powerpoint slide may also be helpful to have on the board as the students come in! The cards in the links need to be cut out and handed to each student as they enter the room, each group needs to have a bun, a burger and a condiment (or 2 condiments if in groups of 4). Students are allowed a bit more freedom here when choosing their groups though you can still have a say in how the groups are made. For example if you want a high ability student in each group just hand them each a bun or burger card. Likewise if you want to split up certain students hand them each a bun or burger card since each group requires only one of each.

3. Sweets – Easy one, have a bag of mixed lollies equal to the number of required members of each group. As the students come in, they each choose a lolly a at random and have to sit with others who have the same lolly as them. Simple.