Writing a new Maths Scheme of Work – Part 15: Regular Problem Solving

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.

In my previous post, I wrote about the need for regular starter activities to help develop students’ basic numeracy skills that are fundamental to allowing them to progress in (and enjoy!) maths.

However, along side this I feel it is also important to help them develop their problem solving skills.

I feel this is most effectively done through quick tasks that get the students thinking, encourage them to work together, to discuss, to try out different methods of approach. And just like with the starters, I don’t believe the they need to be anything to do with the content of the lesson.

By far my favourite source for such tasks are the wonderful UK Maths Challenge Questions produced by the UK Mathematics Trust. I have a soft spot for these questions as I vividly remember entering the competitions myself as a child, and now as a teacher I am always the first to grab the current year’s paper and have a go at the latest mathematical offering (and some people call me a geek…).

The questions are fantastic because they do all the things good questions should do. There is often more than one way to approach each one, they call upon a wide range of mathematical skills, lend themselves well to group work, promote positive discussions between students, and are fun, different, challenging and engaging. I also feel that their multiple choice nature makes them appear more accessible and friendly to students, thus encouraging them to have a go, but of course the cleverly designed incorrect answers to expose any mistakes or misconceptions.

Now, there is a perception that these questions are only for the brightest students, but that is simply not true. Firstly, the first 10 questions are so are accessible to many students in that age group. But more than that, the fact that there are Junior, Intermediate and Senior levels mean that you can use the Junior questions with weaker, older students without them ever realising. Problem solving skills are something all students, regardless of ages or ability, need to develop, and these questions are just about the best source of that.

You can access all the past questions and answers here

And if all that wasn’t enough, one kind teacher on TES has gone and put all the Maths Challenge questions into lovely, accessible PowerPoint format :-)

Slide1 Slide2 Slide3 Slide4 Slide5

I chose this as a former TES Maths Resource of the Week, and the video below describes the resource and how it might be used in the classroom.

To download the Junior PowerPoint click here

For the Intermediate, click here

And for the Senior, click here

And whilst I am on the subject of regular problem solving, the maths challenge resources from the University of Waterloo are definitely worth checking out as another outstanding source of materials.


As you can see, the questions are similar to the UK ones above, but they have the advantage that there are lots more of them and they are broken down into year groups.


You can access the University of Waterloo resources here

So, regular starter activities, combined with regular problem solving activities, combined with more dedicated time for each Topic Unit, carefully selected compulsory rich tasks, and homeworks that test current skills and prior knowledge all play a key role in our new scheme of work, which I hope will be fun to both teach and learn.

In future posts I will show you examples of the homeworks and assessments we have written so you can get a feel for how they will look.

NOTE: assuming  I managed to resist tweeting my TES Maths Resource of the Day as she walked down the aisle, and therefore Kate did not call off our wedding, I am currently married and on honeymoon. Needless to say, my life would not be worth living if I attempted a blog post whilst I am away, so these posts will resume in early September.

Enjoy the rest of your summer :-)


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