My Brilliant Idea - Numbers rule

General

Ages 11-14

The Byzantine Formula of Truth - it's a phrase that has a mysterious ring when I raise it with pupils, and one that really gets them thinking. How does it work?

Essentially, when it comes to allocating who is to do something in a lesson, we allow The Formula to decree who it should be. I ask a series of people in the class to choose numbers between random ranges: "Choose a number between 1 and 5"; "choose one between 16 and 24" and so on... After about four numbers have been chosen I go deep in thought as if calculating, before looking at the class list and announcing whom the Formula has chosen.

The choice is, of course, mine (I teach English, so numbers are not my strong point). However, the scenario takes away any arguing over who is going next in the lesson. Classes seem curiously intrigued by the process and it also has the brighter ones trying to fathom out the workings of the Formula (so you could at some point throw in a genuine one to encourage numeracy.)

Along with a similar roleturn allocation device I call The Pen of Justice (essentially a variation on a pen and a class list). The Byzantine Formula of Truth shows that a little performance surrounding otherwise trivial things can sometimes make a surprising difference

Chris Bond teaches at Warwick School.

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