Tes Maths: Making fun maths lessons work

Craig Barton
09th October 2018

Consider not only engaging students but making the learning stick with this great selection of learning resources. 

In his seminal book, 'Why don’t students like school?', Daniel Willingham wrote a phrase that, quite literally, changed my teaching life: “memory is the residue of thought”, or in other words: students remember what they intend to. Those six words have completely transformed how I approach planning maths lessons.

In the past I planned for engagement; I tried to find lessons that looked fun. If my students were smiling, then they must be learning. It was only when I immersed myself into the world of cognitive science that I appreciated the significance of Willingham’s insight. If my students’ limited attention was drawn to the surface structure of an activity - the quirky context, the dazzling clipart, snipping and gluing bits of paper together - then it was not directed towards the maths. 

Perhaps the most visceral example of this for me was what I describe in my book as The Swiss Roll Incident. I thought it would be a good idea to illustrate the principles of equivalent fractions to my Year 7 class via the medium of several pieces of the cylindrical cake. Four years later my students still talk about that lesson, but when I ask them what it was about they reply “Swiss rolls!”. 

So now when planning lessons, I ask myself, “what are my students likely to be thinking about when doing this activity?”; And if it's not the maths, then I probably need to change my plans. Does this mean that maths lessons cannot be fun? Does it mean we cannot inject a topical theme such as Halloween or Christmas into our lessons? Of course not! It just means - for me, at least - that when I am considering using an activity I need to be sure that maths is at the heart of it, and not an add-on. 

Fortunately, Tes is full of such wonderful treasures, as I hope this selection below demonstrates.

Craig Barton

Tes Maths Advisor


Bring ghouls, ghosts and witches into your lessons without distracting from the learning

KS3 Halloween Mini Maths Activity

Maths activity - using and understanding number facts. Halloween (harder) mini murder mystery. A more challenging start to this one. I used it with a top year 9 and no calculators.
By whieldon

Halloween maths - halloween code breaker

This Halloween maths codebreaker fun activity is sure to give students lots of practice of their times tables.

Students need to answer the questions and find each corresponding letters in order to reveal a halloween joke. Great starter for lessons or to give to early finishers. Fun Halloween clip art pictures included.

More Halloween codebreakers available here

If you would like more Halloween themed maths activities please click here.

By MissEHoney

Maths Relay Races (Problem-solving Puzzles)

My classes love these:

-I get relays printed in sets+laminated.

-Pupils work in pairs,run out to my desk,get Q1,attempt to solve it+use a whiteboard pen to write the answer on the card.

-They bring the answer to me.If it's right, they get Q2. If not I might give them another shot.


They're mainly number puzzles.Seasonal ones are perfect for keeping kids busy at the end of term.

I write a weekly Maths newsletter with other lesson ideas,useful websites,interesting Maths trivia-if you'd like a sample or to subscribe to get them for free by email contact me:aap03102@gmail.com
By aap03102

Halloween Maths

Halloween Maths

Your students are planning a Halloween party.
They will need to work out the total cost of the party from the information given.

There are 5 pages of calculations to complete involving:
• Addition
• Multiplication
• Division
• Money (in £)
• Decimals
There is also an extension task page of harder questions.

All answers are included.
This resource can be printed in black and white or colour.
There are 6 pages to print for students - the document is 15 pages in total.

This resource is aimed at Key Stage 2 and 3 - Years 5 to 9.

You may also like:
Halloween Maths Composite Area
Halloween Maths Puzzles

Please visit Maths Shop to see more of my resources.

By Elsie99

Fun and fruitful formats

The approaches taken by these resources have learning right at the heart of them, and can be adapted and applied to lots of different topic areas

Defuse The Bomb - Pythagoras and Trigonometry

WITH CORRECTIONS! The notorious terrorist 'The Mathematician' has left a clue to defusing the bomb he's just planted. Answer the questions and cu the coloured wire in the correct order. This goes from purely Pythagoras, through Pythagoras and Trigonometry up to Trigonometry in non-right angled triangles.
By alutwyche

Using a Calculator: Part 1 (Treasure Hunt)

This activity focuses on using the cursor button (on a Casio or similar) to navigate in and out of fractions and roots. Note that the use of brackets will be covered in Using a Calculator: Part 2.
Click --> https://tes.com/.../Treasure Hunts for similar style Treasure Hunts on 40 other topics.
Note that unlike most Treasure Hunts, this one has the added feature that the answers give an encrypted clue. Deciphering this clue reveals where the treasure is hidden!

A Treasure Hunt is a great activity which children love. They are ideal for revision, starters or plenaries. They are a really great way to get students to answer questions quickly and enjoy doing so.

These question cards have been prepared in two sizes. The large cards can be pinned around around the classroom and used for a whole class activity; the smaller (loop cards) can be used for group work or by individuals – they are particularly helpful for one-to-one tutorials and during interventions.
By Maths4Everyone


These puzzles are designed in the same way as a traditional crossword but using numbers instead of words. Each clue is a sum, and the result should be entered into the matching squares on the numbered grid. This file contains ten Cross Numbers puzzles together with a solution sheet. I have included two versions, one in PDF and the second an Excel file, whichever is your preference.

Ratio - Thoughts and Crosses

Ratio - Thoughts and Crosses.
Could also be treated as Ratio – differentiated worksheet covering different styles in which the question are asked in the new GCSE.

1. 16 questions on thoughts and crosses, moving from foundation level to exceeding.
2.Cross Curricular link encourages literacy with the pupils, pupils speaking to each other and explaining to how solve problems (this is a massive focus in our school).
3. 16 solutions provided.
4. Set of instructions to ensure the task runs smoothly.
5. Printable version – white version included in the middle of download to save on printing costs.
6. Please download file and ensure you don’t just drag and drop to google drive as this can cause issues with the viewing the file.

Printing Tip: This resource has been designed to display on board or print on A4. If you wish to print select ‘shrink’ or ‘print to fit page’ (or fit to page option on your print settings) in order for it to print correctly on A4.

Tip 2: You could laminate and reuse for other classes. This could be printed in colour and used over and over again. Saving you time and money on the printing costs.

File Type;

Idea behind task;
To develop pupil’s mathematical discussions and thinking/reasoning skills. To encourage pupils to think about what they are writing down in the exam. By speaking to their partner it means their explanation and answers must make sense. Good practice for the exam to ensure they show full working out and to check their answer makes sense.

Check the preview!

If you do purchase my resource, please do rate and review my resources. I really appreciate reviews and feedback, I aim to develop constantly and love to ensure my resources are up to date and differentiated to all ability levels but please do try to be constructive! 
@ onitmaths@gmail.com

Terms of use;
Please use only by the customer buying the resource.
By onitmaths

Resources of the Week

Celebrate the very best of what Tes has to offer with October’s hand-picked selection of Maths Resources of the Week

Algebraic Area Reasoning Tasks

Several tasks all based on a WJEC GCSE question about forming and solving a quadratic equation for the area of two rectangles. These tasks are designed to improve students’ mathematical reasoning and were created as part of the Mathematical Reasoning at GCSE project run by Cambridge Maths Hub.

The tasks vary in difficulty, and include forming expressions for various areas and perimeters, expressing proportional relationships, numerical and algebraic ratio tables and identifying reasonable assumptions. They are not intended to be used all together; just pick and choose one or two suitable ones for your class.

Thanks to JustMaths for the collection of exam questions by topic where I found the original question.

A similar set of tasks on a different application of quadratic expressions can be found here: https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/probability-reasoning-tasks-11839057 and there is a more numerical approach to compound area in these tasks: https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/compound-area-reasoning-tasks-11838514

All feedback very welcome. I’d be really interested to hear which tasks you chose and how you used them!

By catrionashearer

Protractor Activity - Angle Battleships

A battleships inspired 2 player game for students to practice measuring and drawing angles.

Includes: game sheet and PPT instructions.
Requires: Protractors and ruler

Ideal for years 5-8, KS2, KS3.

By Redav

A-level Core Pure Mathematics Year 1/AS

This set of 9 powerpoints have been designed to match the Edexcel Core Pure Mathematics Year 1/AS textbook (for Further Maths), and have largely been adapted from my previous A-level resources. Every chapter is covered, and within are explanations that could be used to teach lessons or be shared with students via a digital classroom. There are also some Autograph files included - the hyperlinks in the presentations should work if these are placed in the same folder as the powerpoints themselves!

If you liked this resource, then please check out my other resources on TES!


By Owen134866

Adding fractions mastery style worksheet with answers

A worksheet that starts simple, but really tests students’ knowledge of equivalent fractions.

Answers included

By alicecreswick

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