A blog about teaching and learning in a maths classroom.

The Developing Teacher

Sunday, 26 October 2014 | 6 Comments

In the past, Maths teaching resources amounted to printed materials (be it a textbook, BLM). If the teacher didn't like what was available to them, they could hand-draw and Gestetner a more appropriate worksheet.

These days most teachers (I would say) are still producing static content with a few more creation options (Word, PowerPoint, maybe a graph from Excel).

There are also dynamic, interactive options like GeoGebra, Desmos or your favourite graphing software. I suspect most teachers are still using these at a basic level, if at all. We can rely on others producing some good stuff on GeoGebraTube for instance.

Increasingly, maths faculties are turning to a content provider for which they pay big bucks.

My solution has been to build electronic worksheets using Excel. Struggling students engage with these, they appreciate a scaffold and immediate feedback*. These worksheets, however, rely on having Excel available (I have never tried them on Excel on an iPad). There would be a whole additional development process to get them working on Google Apps (think BYOD(Bring Your Own Device)). They are also time consuming.

Moving to the web reduces reliance on specific software. I've been playing with this on MathsStarters, e.g. Bingo. After seeing what Ken Wessen is doing at The Mathenæum, I added some graphics (see Area & Perimeter, Number Plane).

Here's my next step - an online worksheet that gives the student some options as to how much help they receive.

Surface Area of Rectangular Prisms, online worksheet

Surface Area screenshot

This one took me hours. But, a great learning experience.


I think that, more than ever, we need to be content creators. Becoming a content creator requires an increasingly sophisticated skillset. Increasingly I seem to be a developer.


*Yes, I know there's lots of web discussion happening at the moment about what good feedback is.

Posted in • Lesson IdeaSurface AreaTechnology | Short URL:


Deb Hogg on  26 October 14  at  11:22 AM #
Hi Simon, By "content providers" are we referring to Mathletics and similar? Given the amount of time and expertise required to produce the content that you can achieve, for most teachers it would seem a high time cost... wouldn't it? Is it really that important that individual teachers make this sort of content? To be honest, the largest impact that I have seen made on my son's approach to Maths has been explicit teaching from a strong teacher who provides firm boundaries about expectations and work product requirements. He is not interested in content provision like Mathletics even though he is a geek in every other sense of the word. I understand that there are lots of students for which not even this will be sufficient but throwing more and more hours at it does not seem to me to be cost effective in a time sense. These are difficult engagement issues but I'm not sure that putting it online is a solution to the engagement challenges of Maths teaching.
Simon Job on  31 October 14  at  01:51 AM #
Thanks for your comment Deb. I was referring to Mathletics etc as the content providers. I'm not suggesting that all maths teachers go out and learn web development. However, I cannot rely on textbooks etc because they are being written with a particular student in mind. Increasingly, the students I am teaching are not 'that' sort of student. I agree, for many students the explicit teaching of mathematics is still essential. Unfortunately our curriculum is so crammed full that we are left with little time to 'play' and enjoy maths - but that's another issue. However, I have a particularly difficult 'bottom' class this year for which I have tried to take a far more conceptual approach. Endeavouring to have them engage with a task through actual understanding rather than just a repeated process. To do this, I am breaking concepts down far more and to do that I am spending more time producing content for this class than I am for my other two junior classes combined. As to the hours spent on the Surface Area activity above, partly I will call that my hobby (the development side of things). There is no way I could afford that effort all the time. ps the Year 9 class completed this activity today. With the steps involved laid out, they really try to understand what they need to do. Some started using the help and then moved forward without it, some used the help through to the end. As the teacher I had far more individual teaching moments with the students than I can in the normal classroom, simply due to the nature of the activity and having a number of ways of visualising the activity laid out before us.
Damian on  05 November 14  at  05:19 AM #
Like to take this opportunity to thank you for sharing the resources you've spent hours developing. I also agree with your view of "the developer teacher". As a first year math teacher I find that the provided "resources" just aren't accessible by my students. Right now I am concentrating on content but am looking forward to the day when I can really start developing my own digital resources. Engagement is the key. I think every teacher would agree that digital resources play a part in keeping students engaged.
Antony on  05 November 14  at  04:56 PM #
That electronic worksheet idea (through excel) is really awesome.I will try it.
Kelly Cornwell on  09 November 14  at  01:21 PM #
Hi Simon, Your excel files are amazing, I find that when I have used them I get a high level of engagement and students who are usually quiet having the confidence to help other students. I believe this is due to the immediate feedback that they receive. Interestingly in the classes that I have used them in I have personally found the highest engagement with the students with low ability whereas the stronger Mathematical students groan and moan. Thankyou very much for the time that you have put in to create such amazing resources. I would like to one day have the time to sit down and work out how to create resources like your excel self-marking files. I agree that what we need to provide is constantly changing dependent on our particular students needs, and at times find it frustrating that I do not have the time to fully cater to all of them.


Simon Job on  16 November 14  at  05:37 AM #
Thanks for the comments, sorry I missed them - the site was not emailing me to notify me of them.

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Simon Job — eleventh year of teaching maths in a public high school in Western Sydney, Australia.
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