My best lesson - Numbers are easier to digest with chocolate

One of the best mathematics lessons I ever taught was on ratios and fractions. It involved setting up three tables at the front of the classroom. On one, I placed a single bag of Maltesers; on the second, two bags; and on the third, three bags.

When the students arrived I told them that they could share the Maltesers among themselves. There was, of course, a catch. They had to line up behind one of the three tables, and the lines behind each would have access only to the bags on that table. Hence they had to work out how many students should go behind each table to maximise their reward.

Before students could join a queue, they had to justify their choice to me with a fraction or ratio. Once they had made their decision, I gave them the chance to persuade the undecided to join rival tables, again having to back up their arguments with a fraction or ratio.

I sat back and watched as they justified their reasons for joining certain tables, and as they tried to estimate how many students should go to one table and not another. The conversation between students was exciting and mathematically rich as they tried to vindicate their arguments, and I believe that the success of this activity was down to the vested interest the class had in the chocolatey outcome.

I tried the activity again a few days later with a different class and this time used bars of Cadbury chocolate. I found these worked even better - the students could carry out more calculations because they knew exactly how many blocks made up a full bar and how best to share it out.

Yet it is the first lesson I remember most fondly, with its excitement and novelty. It really was a fantastic way to engage the children in mathematics, and in its adapted form I have used it many times since.

Gareth Fairclough teaches mathematics at Thornleigh Salesian College in Bolton, Greater Manchester (you can find him on Twitter as @gareth1512).

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Latest stories

• Meet the student who passed GCSE maths at the NINTH try

Julia Belgutay
23 August 2019
• Never mind the stress - keep on teaching, says public

Dave Speck
23 August 2019
• Tes FE Podcast: GCSE results day

Tes Reporter
23 August 2019
• 'Private-school careers is freemasons for 11-year-olds'

Jo Brighouse
23 August 2019
• Pupils as young as 4 'carrying knives in school'

Tes Reporter
23 August 2019
• 'After my apprenticeship, I now plan to do a degree'

James Harrington
23 August 2019
• 'Too many teachers suffer September uncertainty'

Emma Kell
23 August 2019
• Pedagogy Focus: Philosophy for children

Tes Editorial
23 August 2019
• Exclusive: 'Raise exam fees to fund free appeals'

Catherine Lough
23 August 2019
• 3 things not to do the day after GCSE results

Mark Roberts
23 August 2019