The Scheming Mathematician

Over the past couple of weeks I have been thinking more carefully and deeply about schemes of work. My basic questions is, where are the best examples of KS5 Maths schemes of work? This is an area that has been at the back of my mind for a rather long time – I think it was about 4 years ago, at a previous college, that I last made meaningful changes to the SoWs in place) – and it was brought to the fore again recently when we received our login details for the pilot CMEP resources.

At this stage, those resources appear to follow a philosophy that resonates with me: they identify key themes that run through A level Mathematics and then provide activities to engage students in developing a deeper understanding of the material. They also then link to more challenging problems from STEP and MAT papers, for example.

I’m currently beholden to a scheme of work that relates chapter headings to an approximate number of weeks and, much as I appreciate the freedom to exercise my professional judgment, I think such a scheme ultimately fails to support teachers or to create a coherent vision of mathematics. So I turned to the drawing board of my trusty notebook and started to sketch out what I believe a scheme of work should encompass. Here is a tidied-up version of what essentially became a list of questions related to planning:


Scheme of Work or Lesson Plan?

Should the questions identified above be answered at the level of a scheme of work or by an individual teacher in their lesson planning? My current belief is that teachers should be involved in creating a scheme of work as a collaborative process and only those qualities which tailor a lesson to particular students’ needs should be detailed in a lesson plan.

To the Blogosphere!

A fortuitous coincidence came about in seeing a tweet referencing Craig Barton’s epic series of blog posts Writing a new maths scheme of work. (“It’s kind of like Game of Thrones only with slightly less nudity and dragons.” A great sense of humour and positivity pervades the posts!) Being slightly averse to doing huge amounts of screen reading, I actually pasted the 15 posts into a document and tidied them up slightly for printing. That gave me 50 pages of bedtime reading and it was well worth it.

To the drawing board

I then tried sketching out a template for a typical page from my imaginary scheme of work, one which would incorporate a clear structure but be able to answer the questions identified above. Beautiful isn’t it?


Before getting carried away much further, I followed up a few of the links from Craig Barton’s excellent posts (always a difficulty when reading it as a printout). Aside from links to excellent rich tasks, Craig makes good reference to the Kangaroo Maths site and their excellent planning documents in Kenny’s Pouch. I had come across Kangaroo Maths in my first teaching post but the KS5 materials seemed a little under-maintained and the links weren’t always reliable. Seeing their newly-updated schemes for the earlier key stages was refreshing and motivating and, above all else, they are reassuringly similar in structure to my draft sketch! Here is an approximate alignment between the two:


There is still some work to do in fine-tuning the wording of sections and the visual structure on the page but it’s reassuring to see such a high degree of similarity between my ideas and those of a collaborative project. (On a related note, Craig also links to the Collaborative Maths SoW project.)

Just yesterday, I came across another tweet linking to the blog post Want to improve your teaching? Study the teaching of your subject. Here are examples of curricular questions that the author, Michael Fordham, suggests need to be asked at the planning stage:


Once again, there are many common themes: concepts, prior knowledge, connections with other topics, misconceptions and success criteria. I particularly like the explicit consideration of examples that might be confusing or lead to misconceptions. I did some reading into lesson study last year and in that process a significant amount of time is invested in carefully choosing examples to ensure they emphasise the intended concepts whilst minimising the possibility for misunderstandings.

So what happens now?

My intention is to start fleshing out the content for a few choice A level topics. Hopefully, through that process I will refine the choice of labels/sections on the scheme of work template and its layout. I will write again after this drafting process and include more details about the CMEP resources and others that I make reference to in the SoW.

Think, Pair, Share

  • How supportive is your scheme of work?
  • Are there questions you repeatedly ask yourself when planning individual lessons that could be answered collaboratively and recorded in a SoW?
  • How important is it to identify success criteria in an A level Maths SoW? What would they look like? (That is the one section that I am still unsure of.)

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