I’ve worked in some very tricky comprehensive schools. With most classes, I find that at least one of the students in my class will have either a lack of motivation and/or a lack of understanding of key terms and topics.

My work as a fundraiser taught me the importance of grabbing attention early, and making sure students stay interested, understand the key concepts and know how and why they are used.

Here’s an example. When I question students at the start of the lesson, often children struggle to provide a good example or definition of what statistics are.

I start with this slide, with a blank top trump template, then when I have their attention I show my version of the card:

This starter is available here (it actually doesn’t come up looking like that slide)

I try to not spend too long on these (though I do sometimes get carried away).

My use of top trumps gives the students familiarity with the meaning. My ambiguity and bias in the scales can lead to discussing the importance of many elements of statistics: specificity, units, subjectivity and more.

The aim is for the students to be easily able to remember what statistics are, before progressing into the content of the lesson. I strongly believe that this helps students categorise and store the content of the lesson.

Another example: When tackling geometric proof, I start with a riddle, then my next slide asks this question:

The topic of proof is a difficult one. Without understanding the concept of “proof,” some students will struggle to understand mathematical process. Often, just defining the concept does not really help students understand it. A discussion based around this picture can lead a class to a conclusion that we can only trust information we know to be true, which will help when explaining that they need to prove using known mathematical concepts.

And sometimes it just pays to structure a maths question with a bit of silliness involved!

I hope that teachers can make use of the starter activities I have created, and any feedback is greatly appreciated!

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