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Subject Series: Maths

Always sticklers for logic and clarity, our maths teachers are some of the best at creating clear, engaging and useful content on Firefly. They also pull in some fantastic resources from other places on the web to make their pages interactive hubs in which their students can find resources quickly.

Homepage and menu structure

In any subject, your homepage and menu structure is important, giving students the information they need quickly and encouraging them to explore your subject beyond the syllabus or their year group. The maths department at St Paul’s São Paulo, for example, have a 'Starter of the Day' on their homepage - a maths problem relevant for all years - and a Twitter feed - gathering together links to interesting maths resources from across the web. Tonbridge School use the right-hand column of their homepage to link to useful resources - including other areas of Firefly, websites and tools like online graph paper - plus recommendations for interesting maths programmes to listen to in your spare time.

Keith Froggatt from Tonbridge’s Maths department developed a simple hierarchy in their menu right from the start, so his students could see immediately where to go. He organised by exam level to give an obvious sense of progression through the menu. Given that students didn’t always progress at the same rate, structuring by year groups didn’t make sense, but the maths qualifications were a constant. In order to give teachers some freedom, Tonbridge also have Staff Pages designed to collect work useful for that teacher’s classes, but lengthier explanations relevant to all are kept with the qualification page.

Formulae

Firefly has a formula editor! It works perfectly on a mobile device and doesn’t depend on Java. That means you can add complex mathematical formulae to any Firefly page from any device.

Worked Examples

To help students solve a fiendish problem, take a photo or, one better, record the steps of a worked example in a video. The video can go straight onto Firefly for all students to see and other colleagues to use if necessary. Mark Willis, maths teacher from Bangkok Patana school, records worked examples using the free iPad app Doceri and puts them onto his Firefly pages. They might be used after an exam: students watch the worked examples of only the questions they got wrong, rather than sitting through every explanation delivered from the front, or when students are learning independently. With over 2000 videos made in two years, Mark uses the maths section of Patana’s Firefly to organise the videos, structuring them in topics and interspersing with pictures of textbook questions. Mark says the videos have directly contributed to improved exam preparation.

Videos, from YouTube, Khan Academy or your own collection, can be a great way to engage younger students - everything from counting to a logic problem - and to showcase great work.

Homework and tests

You can set tasks on Firefly that don't require submissions online. That means you can collect in handwritten maths problems and still store marks and feedback in Firefly. The marks are therefore easily accessible from any of your devices, simple to track at a later date and can be reset next year. Students will also be able to see their homework on the Student Planner app exactly as you set it, hopefully ensuring everyone completes the exercises on page 5, not page 6, as half the class heard. Even if you require students to submit online, they can take a photo of their working and answers and send the photo to you through Firefly from their mobile device.

Why not end a topic with a quick multiple-choice test to check students’ understanding? If you create the test in Firefly, all answers can be marked automatically and you can recycle the test with your next form or the next year.

Graphs and data

Firefly’s Structured Data content allows you to create graphs on your page.

Graphs and charts can also be pulled in from elsewhere on the internet. Mark Willis, for example, creates graphs in GeoGebra, copies the code for the graph and embeds that on his Firefly page. The graph sits alongside the other materials for that lesson (worked examples, questions, instructions).

Top tips from maths teachers:

  • Respond to student feedback: ask what information they would value on Firefly and, within reason, create accordingly. Keith Froggatt, for example, split the GCSE area in separate spaces for syllabus and past papers, on his classes’ suggestions.
  • Don’t over clutter pages: use Firefly’s standard templates to keep pages clear and consistent.
  • Try a Maths Society page: this can be useful for collecting together a variety of resources and for involving students. Why not give a small group editing rights to the Maths Society page to encourage them to find their own resources outside the curriculum?

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