Subtract confusion

29th June 2007 at 01:00
How can you be sure your class understands you? Asking them to review their own work is a good place to start, says Nick Morrison

Getting pupils to review their own work has become a vital tool in one school's attempt to cope with the size of the post-16 maths curriculum. And while making posters and matching cards may seem unusual activities for sixth formers, they are helping to embed some of the key concepts.

"The syllabus is quite vast and the timetable is so tight, so a couple of years ago we introduced self-assessment," says Richard Clough, acting head of maths at Lawnswood High School in Leeds.

"When we set structured work, we give books back to the pupils with some feedback from the teacher, but they have to look through their work and make their own comments. It means they have to spend some time going through it and they see where their weaknesses are."

It is in the same spirit that pupils work in groups to design their own posters, putting down everything they know about a topic in the form of a diagram.

"As a teacher, you think the pupils understand and it is only when you come to a test that you see they don't. This reinforces what you're teaching and gets them talking about maths, and it also creates a bit of competition,"

Richard says.

"It really does work, and sometimes it is the simple things that teachers overlook and don't realise how successful they are."

Other favourites among pupils include card sorts, where they have to match up pairs, for example, of integral functions or logarithms, in a set of home made cards.

The sixth formers also use handheld voting pods to pick answers in multiple choice tests. Putting the results into a spreadsheet makes it easy to spot who is struggling in what areas.

"It is difficult to try and fit everything in and you need to go over things more than once, but this is a good way of seeing what the pupils have understood," says Richard

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