Writing a new Maths Scheme of Work – Part 14: Regular Starters

You can view all the posts in the epic “Writing a Maths Scheme of Work” series on this page. It’s kind of like Game of Thrones, only with slightly less nudity and dragons.

I have spoken and written about many times the need to balance problem solving, investigation and discovery, with regular, routine, repeated practise of key skills. I am firmly of the belief that students cannot discover or investigate much at all if the basic skills that enable them to make progress through a so-called rich task are not in place. And in that scenario, maths becomes a very frustrating thing for all involved.

As you will know from my previous posts, we have one compulsory rich task that must be completed during each Topic Unit in our new Scheme of Work. However, we have addressed the need to balance this with regular, routine and repeated practice (or “RRRP” – I might copyright this phrase. It could catch on!) in two ways:

1) By significantly increasing the time spent on each topic compared to our previous scheme of work.

So, for example, straight line graphs get fifteen 50 minute lessons in Year 8, and factors, multiples and primes get ten 50 minute lessons in Year 7. This will allow teachers and students to tackle the topic in greater depth at a pace that is right for them, with additional extension and support tasks on hand if they find they have lessons spare. We have achieved this by not explicitly repeating the teaching of any single Topic Unit across Years 7 and 8 (and Year 9 to some extent, although there are a few recap weeks)

2) By making the most of Starter Activities

I have always been of the belief that the start of a lesson is a great opportunity to not only settle the students and set the tone for the lesson, but crucially to practise fundamental maths skills. These will not necessarily (and indeed rarely in my teaching) be anything to do with the content of the lesson that will follow.

Everyone has their favourite starter activities and sources for these, and if teachers in our department are happy with those, then that is absolutely fine. However, when writing this new Scheme of Work, I felt it would be a good time to collect together my favourite starter activities and include them in a specific folder for the maths department to access.

I have learnt over the years that sometimes the more resources and choices you give teachers, the less they use. So, I have been very selective in the resources I have put forward for the starters to get the RRRP (if I keep using it, maybe it will catch on) students need. Here they are and how to get them:

Four Operations Table

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Students need to have basic skills in the four operations in place before they do pretty much anything in maths. And this resource is a wonderful way of helping achieve that. It has the huge advantage of being designed on Excel, meaning the an infinite number of random questions can be generated, and the answers are also provided.

There is a mixture of whole class boards and individual worksheets. I have found the whole class boards superb to project at the start of the lesson and call students out at random to tell me what number goes where. Quick and effective.

This resource is from TES, and can be downloaded for free via this link

Multi-topic Maths Lesson Starters

I selected this resource for my TES Maths Resource of the Week as I think it is absolutely superb. The video explains it in details and gives ideas for how it might be used in the classroom. Once again Excel is used to full effect, but this coming covering a whole range of maths topics.

This resource is from TES and can be downloaded for free via this link

Dynamic Maths Worksheets

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Yes, yes, I know, yet another Excel based starter. But you have to admit, these are pretty amazing. Topic based series of questions on a whole host of topics, with the option to select the difficulty level, complete with infinite question generation and answers. Print them out or project them on the board. What more could you want?

The video below from the website gives you a run through.

To access these resources, click here


And no post on starters would be complete without a shout-out to three classics that I have been using ever since I started teaching:


Ten Quick Questions (free version)

Starter of the Day

So, there you go. I will be encouraging teachers to use one of these, or an equivalent of their choosing, each and every lesson to ensure students basic number skills are up to scratch. And as long as it is not overdone, I believe students will find enjoyment and satisfaction as there basic recall skills improve. This will allow the deeper, richer mathematical process to become more accessible to them, and make those lessons more fun for all involved.

NOTE: I am getting married on Saturday 9th August, and then off on honeymoon. My wife-to-be has suggested (i.e. threatened) that if I want this marriage to last into the new academic year that I refrain from blogging for the time being. Some people, eh? I have scheduled one more post to be released next week, but then I had better stop! But I will continue this series of posts at the start of September.

Enjoy the rest of your summers!


3 thoughts on “Writing a new Maths Scheme of Work – Part 14: Regular Starters

  1. My students tend to arrive over the course of a five minute period (something to be improved) and so I need to have something ready for various stages. Good resources here to look through.

    Routines will be a huge focus in September and the planning of starters plays an important role in setting standards, so thanks for making me think about them more!

  2. I always have q’s up on the board. I duplicate the board and on the second page write the answers up already so all I have to do when the time is up is to turn the page on the IWB. Students then say if they want me to explain any of them. It means an organised start to the lesson and something I advise to teachers for managing behaviour. I call this the settler. I also agree that we must re-visit everything more often. The students have raised this and asked me to address it. The repetition builds their confidence and reminds them they can learn maths before starting a new topic. Finally we revisit a mash-up of maths through synthesising learning, a rich project based activity – students often choose the theme (we did Brasil and football, Australia, Wimbledon last term) which builds up links as well as practising the core skills.

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