The Last Lessons Of The Year

If you started teaching in 1962 there have been a lot of occasions when you’ve taught your last lessons of the school year. This time there’s a possibility – hopefully rather slight – that these might be the last lessons of all.

 I’m due to have a course of radiotherapy later this year, and while it’s expected to clear up the problem once and for all there is some possibility that the side effects might make me an unsuitable person to have around in the classroom. With luck that won’t be the case – I’ll know more in the next month or two.

 All the same, the possibility did mean that this year’s last lessons had a slightly more sombre context, so I indulged myself and used some of my favourite activities.


****** First I used a couple of challenges from ATMs “We Can Work It Out!” booklet. ( ) Each of these presents children with a dozen or so statements on individual cards. I find these infinitely fascinating; children who usually have a fit of the vapours when presented with any question with words in it respond just as positively as anyone else. Typically, at first glance the information is totally confusing. There is no obvious way through the problem; perhaps even the starting point and the target have to be identified. There may be irrelevant information to be ignored, and the remaining statements need to be interpreted and assessed.

For example in The Great Race from the “We Can Work It Out” booklet they have to evaluate a whole series of statements such as ’the green car finished before the yellow car’.

I wrote a little more a couple of weeks back, and this included information about two activities of my own, Martian Kings and Queens and the Properties Of 2D Shapes, and you can find this at


****** I also returned to the Stephen Von Worley’s animated display of numbers by that you can find at   So for example 3 and multiples of 3 have a display built around a triangle of three circles. 4 and multiples of 4 have a square array of four circles – so what do you do with 12?

I’ve written about this before (November 2016) at

One of the richest aspects of this is that you never know the path you’re going to follow. On one occasion we got into prime numbers, another looked at powers of 2, and this time we spent half an hour on estimation.


****** Then there was Marilyn Burns’ lovely playing card challenge where a suit of cards is arranged so that when you deal them out in a particular fashion the cards arrive in sequence Ace, 2, 3, 4, …. The challenge for the pupil is to figure out just how the cards must be stacked to ensure this sequence happens for them. Everything you need, from introduction to months of extension and follow-up, is at


****** And I also included the simple simplest dice game of all, Pig. When it’s your turn you are allowed how to roll the die as many times as you like, keeping track of your total score. You can choose to stop rolling, and your score becomes safely banked. However, should you throw a 1 not only does your turn end, but your score for that turn is 0.

It’s wonderful fun, but Pig is not just fun, and it’s not just excellent mental arithmetic practice – every turn, and every throw, you need to make decisions, and the decisions change all of the time depending on the state of the game.

I wrote about Pig a few years back, but I never got around to publishing it until a few days ago.   It’s worth a look, because a couple of children taught me a version of their own that I’d never come across.








One response

  1. chrissmith180954163 | Reply

    Thanks for this- and I really hope your treatment does the trick!

    Love your enthusiasm even after all these years teaching. What a guy!


    Sent from my iPhone


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