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Monday, 25 March 2013

Egg Box Update!

Note - it is best to have this link playing in the background while reading this post. Open it in another tab and enjoy.

The first set of egg boxes are complete and I have photos!

I'm going to reflect on the project as a whole in another post, but for the time being I thought I'd assume the role of artistic director of the gallery and give you a guided tour. I've put in a selection of designs from top and middle sets. I haven't got a picture of any work from the lower set groups, but I have seen a couple of really nicely decorated cubes and cuboids from them.

(N.B. My tongue is now firmly in my cheek)

1. Untitled
On the left here we have what is considered to be the pre-eminent piece in the collection from two of our gifted and talented artists. The talented duo who created it declined to name the work, but at the gallery we have chosen to refer to it as "Possibly the head of a panda princess?"  A great deal of skill went into the production of this piece and the artists should be commended for their ingenuity in creating the spherical shape. They were also highly commended for their excellent research skills which enabled them to look up the formulas for the surface area of each section.


2. Bright Yellow Rabbit with Oversized Teeth and Cavernous Eyes
This is the work of another one of our most distinguished artistic duos. The work encourages us to reflect on the contrast between the jaunty yellow colour that dominates the head of the rabbit and the deep black colour used for the creature's eyes. Again, this pair of artists were highly successful in calculating the surface area of each section of the work, not forgetting the ears.

3. Chateau de l'Oeuf (unfinished) 

This ambitious work was sadly unfinished as the artists had to run to their next lesson, but one can get a sense for the scope of their design by this partially completed exhibit. This exemplifies a trend in some of the middle set groups towards creating "buildings" for their eggs. Judges were particularly impressed by their use of the formula 3/4 x pi x radius squared, for the cone shaped turrets, which were made using 3/4 of a circle.

4. The Eggcitement of Easter
This egg-box design, showing a rabbit in open-mouthed delight as it is about to consume a chocolate egg, encapsulates the joy of the Easter season. Although they had never been taught how to calculate the correct dimensions when designing the net of the cylinder, this group should be particularly appluaded for their "can-do" attitude and problem solving approach. When discussing how to work out the length of the rectangular part of the net, the group realised that it had to be the same as the circumference of the circle, but they had not been taught a formula to work this out. Instead, they took a piece of string and used that to measure the circumference of the circle. Ingenious!

5. The Nodding Rabbit
 This design demonstrates that sometimes simpler is better. The group used 2 cubes, attached with a piece of card at the back. Viewers in the gallery are encouraged to interact with this exhibit by tapping the head of the rabbit, which bobs up and down. Although not particularly ambitious from a mathematical point of view, this is a much valued contribution to the gallery and will be used as a model to inspire future generations of artists, especially those who are less confident.
6. Sheep
As artistic director, this is my personal favourite in the gallery. Again, the acutal net is not particularly mathematically adventurous (it is a cuboid) but who could fail to love an egg box covered in cotton wool and made to look like a sheep? 

7. Egg-Barn

Our guided tour concludes with a very accomplished piece of work from two artists who have made fantastic progress this year. Not content with a simple cuboid shape, the pair decided to construct a triangular prism for the roof of their Egg Barn. They realised that the length of the triangle had to be the same as the length of the corresponding side of the rectangles in the net. With some assistance from their artistic director, they were guided to experiement with using compasses to construct inter-secting arcs to find the third vertex of each triangle.Once they had mastered the technique, the artists became experts in their field and showed another group how to do it.


Sunday, 24 March 2013

Musings on the pedagogical uses of laughter....

One of the most important things in teaching is building a relationship with your students. I always think things are going well with a class if they can laugh at/with me in a good natured way AND I can laugh at them (just a little bit of course).

Both of my current year 11 classes are pretty good at this.One class recently described me as "like a really funny Mum", which I took as a compliment, even though I'm only 10 years older than them and couldn't possibly be their mother. A student in the other class recently said "Miss, you should do that thing where teachers go on TV and teach difficult kids. I'd definitely watch you." I thought this was quite a big compliment, so I made the mistake of asking why. "Oh because you're really funny when you're cross".  Ah. That swiftly deflated my ego!*

Laughing at someone else is easy, but laughing at yourself takes real character. Even as adults, not everyone can do it. I have recently realised that some of the friends and family I admire most are people who can laugh at themselves and don't take themselves too seriously.

I'm pleased to say that most of my y11s seem to have this character trait. One of the most able students that I teach (and one of the most confident) stared at a distance time graph recently and shouted across the room "Miss this scale is all wrong. It makes no sense. It goes one thousand, one thousand and thirty, one thousand one hundred, one thousand one hundred and thirty. What is it doing?" Rather than give her the answer, I just burst out laughing. "You'll find it funny when you realised what you've done" I said. "Read the question again" (It was a distance time graph, so the scale actually read 10.00, 10.30, 11.00, 11.30). Similarly, in the other y11 class I asked the girls what the letter D stood for in 2D and 3D. "I know!" shouted one student "Dime... Dim..... Dementia?" To which I burst out laughing as well (along with the rest of the class). Again, in a great show of character, she took it on the chin and laughed along with the others.

We ask our students to cope with criticism every day. They are constantly being told how to improve their work, or being asked to correct their mistakes and think about which topics they need to revise. It can't be easy. In my first term doing a history degree at Oxford I felt completely out of my depth and I knew I was handing in rubbish work. I was so embarrassed that I couldn't bear to read the pages of comments my tutor wrote on every essay. If I had done, I would probably have improved much more quickly. As it was, it took about 3 months before a different tutor took me to task and verbally went through how I could make my writing better. She described the next week's essay as "a transformation".

By encouraging students to laugh at themselves when they have made a mistake, we can help them see that making mistakes is part of learning. But to have that sort of atmosphere in the classroom, we need to let them laugh at us too. Using humour in the classroom is a risky strategy, but I think that when it pays off, it's hugely worthwhile.


* To re-assure readers that I'm not a complete idiot in the classroom, I am hardly ever genuinely "cross" with this class, because they are really nice. Instead, I tend to say things like "if you haven't brought your calculator I'm going to give you a dirty look" and I pull a face at them. 

Monday, 11 March 2013

Easter Egg Box Project

I don't remember a huge amount about maths lessons when I was at school. I remember enjoying the SMP system in year 7 where you worked through lots of little books and essentially taught yourself. I really liked that. I didn't like the GCSE coursework where you had to count words in sentences and then work out the standard deviation of the sentence lengths. As a lover of literature I despaired to see To Kill A Mockingbird reduced to such soul-destroying analysis.

However, some lessons did capture my imagination and I remember particularly enjoying a series of lessons where we had to design an easter egg box. Luckily for me, I was allowed to work with my hugely talented best friend who was both a mathematical high achiever and ridiculously creative. She came up with the idea of designing a net that looked like a hen's head.

It was pretty impressive. It consisted of an octagonal prism and a cone all in one net, which we decorated to look like a hen's head and beak. I've searched on the internet for something similar and this is the closest image I can get to it, but it doesn't really do it justice.......

So I wonder what our y7s and y8s will come up with when we give them the same project in a week or so's time.

Here are the resources on the TES:

If you are looking for a project to do before easter, I think it should be a good one. It wasn't difficult to put together and so far I think it's ticking all the boxes (ho, ho! I love a good pun)

Which boxes has it ticked? Well it......

*hasn't taken long to plan
*helps to deliver quite a lot of national curriculum content
*allows students to be creative
*has a cross-curricular element
*gives us the chance to assess objectives without testing students to death
*shows how maths applies to real life situations
*AND is open-ended enough for all students from level 3 to level 8.

The resources on the TES include a powerpoint  and a student assessment sheet. I haven't uploaded the nets that we are going to use because we've taken most of them from We also drew some ourselves on sqaured paper, so that the level 2/3 students can count squares.

If we get any particularly impressive designs, I'll post them up on the blog too.

Monday, 4 March 2013

twitter account

Hellooo lovely blog readers.

 I've had more people asking about resources. A good way to contact me is via twitter @chk_ing
If you follow me - I follow back, then you can send a direct message.

: )

Where To Find The Teaching Resources

Hi everyone,

I've recently had some requests to send people some of the resources I've been blogging about, especially the darts resources and the codes resources. I'm going to put them up on the TES and put a link to my profile on the TES on here.

Have another look at the blog in the next couple of days and the links should be up by then.


The mathematical magpie