Rio 2016 Maths

An attempt to follow in someone else’s footsteps.

rio2016 [pdf]

A PDF/worksheet thing about the Rio Olympics. Eight pages covering a range of maths content.

Kind of pointless as we won’t be at school whilst the Rio Olympics are on. I mainly did this for a little bit of practice making nice stuff.

If you use this, please feed back to me. Is it good? Does it work? Do some bits work more than others?

  1. All credit to @dooranran who I nicked the idea/style/everything off.
Design makes a difference

If you visit this website often (which, based on my stats, you almost definitely don’t) you might see that I switch the design around occasionally. I’m constantly fiddling with design and font use, trying to chase that holy grail : something that’s nicely designed. I’m the same for my worksheets and presentations. I’m constantly trying to make things in formats that look nice. I don’t think I’ve achieved it yet. I also think it’s really important. There’s something elegant to good design. An uncluttered clarity. A beautiful zen.

Whilst I haven’t managed it, there’s a lot of people producing lovely stuff (often in very different ways), and I wanted to highlight a few of them, talk about what makes their work nice.


The first person I want to talk about is TES user Dooranran. His stuff is lovely. He uses a lot of themes (particularly superheroes and football) . I’m wary of using a theme. Often I find as many pupils put off by the theme as are engaged by it, but every Dooranran activity I’ve used has been very successful. Especially this Euro 2016 maths activity. I’d say the reason behind this maybe to do with the efforts that Dooranran puts into combining his themes and his mathematical content. They often gel in a really nice way. The maths content of his work is often very challenging, too.

The other person I want to talk about is Don Steward. Again! I’m always talking about Don Steward. So I should. He’s ace! He’s also odd. He’s a fan of unicase, which means that all of work is lowercase. I’m sure this violates some schools’ literacy policy, but it does look nice. I’ve never noticed how capital letters are rubbish before. He’s also a big fan of white space. Have a look at the sheet below.


It’s clean, it’s neat, it’s tidy. I think it can be tempting to cram too much on a sheet and overwhelm students. The other thing you notice about Don’s work is that he uses minimal instructions. I think this is a very underrated and important point of problem solving. Figuring out the problem is part of the problem. Look at this.


I like this. The white space, the presentation. This isn’t a problem to be done quickly and moved on from. It’s a problem to be savoured and worked on.

I really need to work on my presentation. If you want to get involved in chat, what programs do you use? Are we too stuck to PowerPoint and Word when better tools could do a better job? I vaguely want to try InDesign but I feel it’s like taking a hammer to the problem. Am I being too picky? Is bad design perfectly OK. I’ve seen some horrendously designed presentations on TES with great reviews. I content ultimately king?

My new favourite website

I’ve got to give a big shout out to

I’ve only just discovered his website, and I think it’s something every maths teacher should have in their favourites.

It’s got brilliantly presented slides on nearly every topic, but what sets it apart is the amount of UKMT and JMC questions that he both adds to his slides and worksheets. These questions are brilliant for pushing students and getting them to think.

The man is a hero!

Negative Number Codebreaker

I made this:

Negative Number Code Breaker[PDF]

It’s a simple worksheet where students find the answer to an addition, subtraction, multiplication or division sum and look it up in a grid. This then generates at letter. Once students have found all the answers their letters will spell something.

These kind of worksheets are quite fun. They take a list of questions and turn them into a puzzle, and they’re really easy to make.

You might want to show students the video below before starting the task.

This would set the atmosphere and make the lesson more themed and engaging.

If you use this, let me know how you get on.

100 Boring Questions

I am a fairly traditional teacher. I believe that people learn by doing, and people learn mathematical processes by doing them.

However, doing a hundred questions is dull, so I’m always looking for ways to make a simple worksheet more interesting and involving. Here are a few ideas I’ve collected over the years and my thoughts on them:

Collect a joke

I’ve used and created a few of these before [click here for an example]. I like them. Student’s are often quite engaged finding the joke, however groan worthy it is and they’re kind of (whisper it) fun. Following the trail lends a puzzle element.  However, there is a problem with them. Often, when students complete the joke, they can’t help but shout it out. This then removes the motivation for other students to complete the work. I’ve not managed a way around this yet.

Tarsia/Card Sorts

Tarsia [see here] is everywhere. Most people are comfortable using them, and theres a lot of material available on the internet. You can also test misconceptions by tweeking the questions and answers and if you do these one between two it can get students talking to each other (which is always good). However, I find that the larger Tarsia puzzles can often go on a little too long (even with interruptions to keep students on-task) and they are not actually that different from a normal list of questions.

The other problem is that once a Tarsia puzzle is finished there’s the issue of what you do with it. There’s no greater way to irritate students than to ask them to put all the cards away and back from where they came, but asking students to stick it down and keep a record can be a waste of time.

Thoughts and Crosses

Thoughts and Crosses is, as you would expect, a take on naughts and crosses [see example here]. I’m keen on gamification in my classroom, so the idea of a worksheet as a game really appeals to me.

There’s also a nice twist in that students have to push themselves to win, and there’s quite a good self checking mechanism in place, where students are invested in checking their answers.

However, the problem here is that if both students have misconceptions, the mistakes can often go unchecked but it’s obviously fairly easy to go through the answers.

Quiz, Quiz, Trade

Want to know what this is? Click here. I like this idea of students coaching each other, however it’s difficult to let go. It may be good practice for some with a good grasp of the concepts, but I often use questions as a tool for learning. I expect students to get things wrong, to be corrected and learn from their mistakes. Maybe quiz, quiz trade allows this and I need to let students be more in charge of their own destinies, but I’m not quite convinced yet.

What things do you use to disguise a worksheet? Should we be disguising worksheets or should we doing tasks that are inherently different and more engaging? Leave a comment a join the debate.