@mathsjem today published this blog post about resources for stretching able Year 10/11 GCSE students and it triggered my memory of a revision competition I ran with my top set year 10 class in my last school. The materials I used as the basis were the Foundation of Advanced Mathematics papers (this is an FSMQ offered by OCR/MEI). There are a dozen or so past papers available which is more than enough! I’ll detail the process exactly as I ran it, but you may well think of adaptations to improve this for your own classes.

Some set-up

- Create a scoring spreadsheet with each student’s name and enough columns for the number of papers you will eventually work through. Each paper comprises 40 questions so you could apply some conditional formatting that will highlight cells that contain high scores, for example. My students also appreciated the column that ranked them based on their running total.
- Create a second spreadsheet as a 2-way table where you can record which students have worked together as a pair.
- Create an answer sheet with space for the pair of students’ names and their 40 answers, and a space for their score out of 40. (I would upload mine but I don’t think I have it anymore.)

Before

- Print one of the papers, laminate it and slice it to separate the questions – Rule 1:
*don’t let the students write on the questions!* - Double-check if any of the questions require students to draw on a grid (there’s typically one question like this every other year). Print off any necessary graph sheets. You may also want to weed out any questions on topics they have not studied. As we taught the IGCSE this wasn’t such an issue – in fact the students wanted to learn about the additional topics!
- Print enough of your blank answer sheets so there is one per pair.
- Grab a stack of mini-whiteboards!

During

- The students work in pairs and are given an answer grid and mini whiteboards.
- Give each pair a question to get started with (you can choose these ‘randomly’ – giving the weaker students one to build their confidence and the cocky kids one to keep them quiet for a while).
- Spread the remaining questions out on any spare space in the classroom.
- When the students have recorded an answer to their question, they can exchange it for a new one. Rule 2:
*They are only allowed to have one question at any time*– there was a -1 point penalty any time they broke that rule. (A boardmarker black dot on their answer sheet.) - Depending on the ability of your class and the length of your lessons, allow eg 60 minutes for them to complete as many questions as possible. (My double lesson was 75 minutes.)
- I would be willing to help out (to a limited extent) if they were stuck with questions, but more to point them in the direction of examples/notes etc or to explain vocabulary. Where relevant, such help was shared with the whole class by a written note on the whiteboard.
- Once the students were settled, I’d record the pairs because, Rule 3:
*they are never allowed to be in the same pair again*!

After

- When the time is up, collect in all the questions and get the pairs to swap answer sheets.
- Project the mark scheme from the OCR website – it’s great these papers are multiple choice! Students mark each others papers and record a total at the top, then return the paper.
- I would award the score to both people in the pair and record all the scores in a spreadsheet. They loved seeing the scores go in ‘live’ and how the ranking updated.

I think I ran this for about 8 weeks in total and towards the end we created some ideas for prize categories: highest overall score, biggest range of scores, something about quartiles and I can’t remember what else – the students even enjoyed keeping the prize categories mathematical!

Hopefully this has explained things clearly enough if you feel you want to run a similar competition with your class. In any case, do check out those FAM papers as they are an excellent source of easy-to-mark problems 🙂

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