Author on TES: Maths master, tomotoole

Sian Evans
01st June 2016
author on TES, Tom O Toole,maths master,maths,secondary maths, new gcse,ks4 resources,ks4

TES Author tomotoole offers insight into his process for making resources and the challenges he faces when creating teaching materials for the new GCSE curriculum.

Tell us a bit about your professional background and why you joined TES?

I qualified in 2011 and spent a few years in the classroom before the birth of my son changed everything. After examining my work-life balance, I decided to move on from classroom teaching and focus on tutoring, so I could spend more time with him. 

From tutoring and teaching in the classroom, I realised I had produced a number of good resources and wanted to share them with other teachers. After tidying them up, they were uploaded on TES in a format that I would have wanted if I was still in the classroom. I have been doing this for about a year, which was also about the time that the new maths GCSE curriculum was released, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to use that as the basis of my shop.  

What is your process for making resources?

Starting with the curriculum and the number of learning objectives within each section, I think about how to break down the content into a sensible progression of lessons. I map out individual lessons, select the key objectives and plan how I’m going to lead pupils there. I create resources that work through different assessment objectives, with some straight-forward questions for practice and some mathematical reasoning activities. The aim is to create a resource that guides students through a topic and provides a complete understanding.

All this happens on pen and paper, before firing up the computer and populating lesson plans and student activity templates. Then I proof read and check the resource over a final time before uploading to TES.

What are the challenges of designing resources for GCSE students?  

The hardest part is creating problem-solving opportunities because there is such an emphasis on covering the exam material and giving basic knowledge that those deeper, more thought-provoking activities are often skipped. As GCSE maths is becoming more challenging, thinking of the kinds of problems that will make sense to students of that age, but also utilise the trickier concepts, can be quite difficult.

How do you turn a good resource into an outstanding resource?

Attention to detail plays a big part in it. Think about starter activities. Good resources include a starter, but it can feel quite arbitrarily bolted on when it involves a few practice questions on another topic or a general recap. I try to design starters which open up a flow of thought, so that it is the beginning of a journey. A starter should be asking questions that the lesson will answer.

I think the outstanding resources are the ones that have a vision for a whole journey of a lesson rather than being a 10-minute activity that can be mixed and matched with other ideas.

What resources are coming up?

Within the next couple of weeks, I will finish creating resources for the whole, new GCSE curriculum, which will round off a substantial piece of work.  I’m thinking about putting together revision lessons and exam practice questions, and perhaps making supplementary activities for the lessons I have already created.

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