CGP have really raised their game recently. Traditionally known for their excellent revision guides, regular readers of Great Maths Teaching Ideas will know how highly I rate their relatively new GCSE MathsTutor product. This DVD-ROM disc that retails for just £3, contains video lessons and worked exam questions for every topic on the maths GCSE. View a demo of MathsTutor here. They also produce a VLE/network version that you can upload to your learning platform school-wide for just £250 a year. The videos are engaging, informative and contain regular bouts of cheesy humour. The pedagogy is good as the vides are made by maths teachers. The kids love them and say they really help them with their learning.
I have been reflecting on my teaching recently and have realised that I need to be giving pupils more time to consolidate their learning. Once pupils have ‘remembered’ new knowledge and shown the ability to apply it I often press on, conscious of getting through the whole scheme of work on time. Homework should provide time for consolidation but I want to offer that opportunity in an environment where pupils can get help if they need it. I am reading Eric Jenner’s brilliant book Super Teaching at the moment that discusses the way in which our brains learn and the necessity of processing time. Giving your subconscious brain time to process and organise new information is vital to the learning process and you have to make time for it or you won’t retain the learning. I’ve decided to do once-a-week consolidation lessons where pupils focus on practising lots of questions on topics that they have learned previously in a supportive environment. Rather than teaching something once and hoping they remember it in 2 years’ time I hope these regular consolidation lessons will allow my pupils to keep more plates spinning at once so their learning gets better embedded and they have less to resurrect when it comes to revision time. They should also find it easier to make links between topics which is so vital to learning. As Jenner says, it’s the connections that count in learning. You have to provide them with as many things to anchor new learning to as possible. My classes will still get high-paced dynamic lessons focussed on learning with lots of collaborative work and discussion, but they’ll also do some good old-fashioned consolidation. I hope by putting lessons aside for this I can strike a better balance that ensures my pupils get time for each part of the whole learning process.
If you are interested in giving your pupils more structured consolidation time you will need a collection of questions to give them. Step forward CGP and their new series Mathematics for GCSE & IGCSE. In house, CGP call these the no nonsense textbooks. They are just that. There are no glossy photographs and no dumbing down of technical maths language. Each section contains a worked example and then dozens of questions in the exam style that get progressively harder. Answers are included at the back. The books come in three flavours: Higher Level, Foundation Level and Foundation- The Basics. View them on the CGP site here. The books retail to the public at £19.99 each but they will sell them to schools for just £10 each! Amazing value for the thousands of questions in each book.
Am I taking a step backwards here by advocating such an old-fashioned style of textbook? I don’t believe so. I am a fan of collaborative working and discussion in a maths classroom. I believe in AfL and engaging learners with ICT and situated learning experiences. However, in a true student-centred classroom it is the pupils who have to put the work in to learn. I work hard for them by providing an environment conducive to learning but they need to match that effort themselves. If used in an old-fashioned sit and work in silence, teacher sits at front of room lesson where pupils who were struggling are not identified, these textbooks would not be effective. No textbook would be. On the contrary, used in a consolidation lesson that incorporates instant feedback through self-marking, a brain, book, buddy, boss sequence of who to ask when you are stuck, collaborative working and support, these textbooks could form the spine of a true student-centred learning environment. It’s what you do with them that counts!
At just £10 each these are top value and would see a student through a whole GCSE course for both class work and home work questions. Well done CGP. Mixing the best of the old with the new at a cracking price.
Disclosure: The author of this post received free sample copies of the textbooks for review.