Magpied an idea … or two …

There are a couple of ideas that I’ve seen recently that have provided me with inspiration to develop something that I’ve been pondering for a while and so I thought it only right and proper to give credit where its due.  

We’ve always done something on the morning of the exam … I say that … what I mean is we’ve always made ourselves available for students if they want to come into school earlier than usual. Getting students to take you up on this is variable as with all extra sessions but more so for those tricky (old money) C/D or as they are now, the grade 3/4/5 borderline students. Generally the classic B+ student (I suppose they’d be high grade 5/6 in new money) will come in prepared with something that they got “stuck” on and they are pretty resilient anyway. Seager has always had the philosophy that anything we do with our groups on the morning of the exam (remember we generally taught/teach the kids to the left of the normal distribution curve!) should be something that has “fluency” at its heart … in essence, something to get them thinking “mathematically” before the start of the exam, which is why I loved the idea that Jo Morgan (Resourceaholic) recently shared, of her breakfast warm up exercises.

I absolutely love this idea (have I said that already??) Having something structured for the students to do rather than something that turns out to be too taxing or even worse they come to you with a question that really needs more than the few minutes of snatched time that you have and the last thing you want to say “oh don’t worry .. that won’t come up” or “if that comes up don’t answer it”. The idea really got me thinking about what we were trying to achieve and for me, its all about settling nerves and building confidence. This last point is something that I’m a massive believer in  … giving students an early sense of success, I think, leads to increased confidence which leads to increased chances of success and so on and so on (the above image actually came from some CPD thing we did for Pearson looking at low attainers but its true for all learners in my experience! This led me to think about how that can be capitalised on and thought about having repeating topics that students could see were the same “topic” but with some progression in terms of difficulty so I came up with the idea of putting something together that repeated a select group of topics within the worksheet so that the kids build up their confidence as they work across and down the page.

The second idea was something that I’d seen my new gaffer (Matt Fox) do with some of our year 11, whereby he’d produced some hints/answer sheets that the kids could use if they need a little reminder but also the answers gave them “immediate” feedback as to whether they were right or wrong, which we all know sometimes happens unless mistakes are addressed immediately. This one made me think about structuring the worksheet (and its something I want to do more of next year!) that incorporates some hints and the answers, so came up with the idea of having them on the end where they can be folded underneath the sheet or the answers can be folded over to cover the hints.

In terms of the content I’ve kept with the idea that trying to “teach” something new just before an exam is pointless … what we are trying to achieve is getting them to wake up and ready to “think” … so I’ve looked at topics that didn’t come up in paper 1 (I’ve done separate versions specifically for AQA and Edexcel) but are pretty routine topics nonetheless. I also wanted to have something that could be accessible for all students so I’ve put together a Foundation version that’s shorter than the second version for the “Crossover” because at the 1/2/3 grades they are liable to have quite low confidence and some can get quite anxious when faced with a massive number of questions – remember this is all about confidence! With regards the “Crossover” version, even the Higher tier students can do this one as it really isn’t the time or place to unsettle them with something too challenging especially if they get it wrong …having said that these top achieving students will come prepared in the main anyway.

The end result are two worksheets for AQA and Edexcel (tweaked for each board), one aimed at Foundation and the other aimed at the “Crossover” topics – I’ve shown the Edexcel version below and would love to know what you think. Note that within each “different border” I’ve put groups of questions that have repeating topics as you move across and down the page. On the right hand side you’ll see where I’ve put hints and the answers which can be folded over to cover them. Seager used the Foundation version last week as an exercise with his group and said it went down really well so that’s a good sign and also means that when the kids come in on Thursday morning they’ll be faced with a format they’ve seen before. 

I’ve already put these in the teachertoolkit of JustMathsOnline (along with solutions … in the teachers toolkit/extras/revision & exam prep/breakfast workouts). I’ll also  be putting the same together next weekend in readiness for paper 3 that’s specific to what hasn’t come up again  (and the plan is to do them next Summer too!) if people think they are useful.


2018-06-05T15:27:10+00:00June 5th, 2018|Blog, From the Coal Face, NEW GCSE 9-1, Resources, Teaching|


  1. Matthew Fox June 5, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    How exciting! Mentioned in one of your blogs. My world is complete.

  2. JustMathsMel June 5, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    hahahaha … didn’t know you actually still read this shiz!!

  3. Dave Faram June 5, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    As normal a big thanks Mel, and all the others for helping with this, as in sport it is a warm up , a bit stretching , not a full blown sprint and these look great

  4. Sam June 6, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    Thanks Mel. I used these with year 11 today and they went down a treat. The students really liked the fact that they could check their answers.

  5. JustMathsMel June 6, 2018 at 8:09 pm

    That’s brilliant!! Looks like they’re going to become a thing tailored for every exam series 🙂

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