At one of the early maths conferences I attended, a guy came up to me and introduced himself. Nothing unusual about that I know but this is where Twitter has changed things massively; we talk to each other all the time and then when you meet people in person, the conversation just picks up from where it was left. However, sometimes it’s quite easy not to relate a Twitter profile and the person stood in front of you. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’ll usually speak to anyone (and it can get me into trouble) – so when this guy walked away after a polite chat I turned to the group of girls (they’ll know who they are!) I was with and said: “so … who is Steve Lomax? Do I know him?” to which the response was that he was one half of the Kangaroo Maths team. Now, that WAS a name I knew about and at the time had used stuff from their site for several years. 

Little did I know where that initial introduction would lead. Over the years there have been lots of conversations about maths teaching and I have to be honest, sometimes my imposter syndrome has struck because pedagogically these two guys know their stuff and I often feel inferior in the company of other maths teachers (I’ve written about this before!!). We’ve also discussed the wider landscape (especially given Steve has a day job as a Maths hub lead .. and I have quite strong views on Maths Hubs we have had some heated interesting conversations!) and for a few years we have said that we should do something together and got no further than saying that for a long time.  So … last week I tweeted that I would be revealing something that ourselves and the duo that I now call the “Kanga-boys” (Matt Nixon is the other half of the duo) have been discussing and working on for nearly 2 years and it should be ready in January. Those of you that were at the conference in 2018 saw this in its very early stages and we’re now at the point where the finish line is in sight ... oh hang on … I haven’t even said what “it” is … 

I probably need more of a preamble first … at some point we were talking about revision guides. This would have been about the time that we were deluged with sample copies of them in readiness for the 9-1 GCSE. On and off, we’ve discussed, how sometimes at parents evenings when asked what parents can do to help students one of the things lots of teachers ask is “do they have revision guides?” … Parents are often given very little guidance as to the best way to use them and I think that we sometimes absolve ourselves of the responsibility of revision by suggesting they need these guides. However, lots of teachers give guides/workbooks a cursory glance when suggesting a brand or buying 100’s to sell (at cost) to parents every year – we assume because it’s come from a particular publisher that it must be good. Buying guides for a school is also one of those September jobs that lots of HODs do without considering whether there is a better guide out there. One of the biggest frustrations when the new GCSE spec started, lots of the revision guides (not all of them) that came out just had the new content added and there was very little else that changed … the fact is, the 9-1 GCSE is different in terms of the weighting of the assessment objectives within it and so you can’t just add new topics and rehash the same old content. It was all very frustrating. There was nothing out there that floated our boats, so to speak.

So we came up with the crazy idea of writing our own revision guide … bonkers. There were so many decisions we needed to make but most of them came naturally from our frustrations of not having something that was “just right”. We didn’t want to produce the normal Higher tier and Foundation tier guides. That’s just not the way we structure the teaching across year groups … the actual focus and not splitting it into the traditional higher and foundation tiers came from the success Seager has achieved of teaching the “crossover” topics … essentially these are about 75 “topic areas” that are in both tiers. The idea is that even those students on the higher tier route need to nail the crossover content to gain access to the higher grades but the difference is that they cover them earlier in their schooling than those students who ultimately do the foundation tier who also need a firm grasp of the same content too.

I’ll try and explain some of the fundamental ideas behind the way we have structured and written what we have called: – “Ready? Set? Go! … The Crossover” (does that mean there will also be a “Ready? Set? Go!… Working Above” and “Ready? Set? Go! … Working Towards”?? Possibly! Just “possibly” but also maybe not!). In no particular order,

  • Each topic area is covered over a double page spread, so there is no flipping pages or working with two books to cover the same topic. We want to make this guide/workbook intuitive to use. 
  • Every topic has 3 sections that each have a different reason for “being”. 
    • The “ready?” section is the “how to do it” where carefully chosen worked examples are laid out. As part of this we’ve also tried to identify most of the prerequisites for each topic. 
    • The “Set?” section is where students can work through AO1 style questions where the “skills” are used.
    • The “Go!” section is a collection of A02 and A03 style questions so that essentially over the two pages it gets more “examy” (I know its not a word but I couldn’t think of a better way of explaining it!) 
  • We wanted to identify misconceptions/common mistakes and so came up with the “maths police” which is used throughout the guide to highlight these. 

In terms of the overall feel we wanted a crisp clean look that didn’t patronise students and didn’t want to compromise on the pedagogy behind it but also it had to have a look that appealed to students and made them want to actually work through it. One of the things Seager particularly wanted stems from how he used his revision guides (many!) years ago where he folded over the corners of the pages he’d completed so that he could flick through it and see how much he’d done, so we’ve added a little corner for this very reason!

There are lots of other things we’ve included but I think that’s enough to give you a flavour. 
I’ll leave you with a teaser about timescales. This should be available in January or February (ideal for year 10 mocks to get them into the habit before year 11!!) … I can’t be more specific because we’ve decided to self publish, despite talking to publishers we felt that we would lose the control of how it looked and felt and weren’t prepared to give up that control about the concept. We want this to be something that we will all be proud of seeing being used by students BUT we also want to have control over every single aspect. It has not been easy and we still have lots of editing to do with the designers but phase one of the writing is now done.

I’ve been using lots of the double page spreads with students in revision sessions and they’ve worked really well and have been well received. I just cant wait to get them out there … also a little bit apprehensive about the reception of what has been a central part of my life for so long now.