Student Training Day

Mike Tattersall
Wonthaggi Secondary College

Mike describes the first run of an idea from the Korumburra Cluster to background key students from several schools in particular lessons from Maths300 (our sister site) with a view to them becoming Peer Tutors in the introduction of the investigation in their school. Mike's school hosted the introduction of Sphinx (Lesson 25). If you are not a member of Maths300 click on the photo for background to the task and its investigation. You can also learn more about Sphinx from the Sphinx Album on this site.
Task 166 Sphinx

Green Line


The ASISTM (Australian School Innovation in Science, Technology & Mathematics) project has involved the incorporation of Maths300 into the Mathematics curriculum of the schools in our cluster project. Three of these schools are rural secondary schools that are separated by travelling times of 30-50 minutes. There has been contact between these schools at the staff level through a Leading Schools initiative. We wanted to give students in these schools the opportunity to see themselves as part of a larger learning project and decided that the ASISTM initiative would be a good vehicle for this. The idea that developed was to bring together groups of students from each school at different venues and to expose them to a Maths300 lesson that they would then take back to their own school. These students would then be used as the leaders to introduce the lessons to groups of their peers.

What did we want to get out of this activity?

  • An opportunity for students and staff from other schools to meet in a focused learning context rather than sporting or social context.
  • Introduction of some Maths300 lessons that may not have been used in the participating schools and an opportunity to discuss the value of these lessons and use within the curriculum both from a student perspective and staff perspective.
  • An understanding of the change in thinking needed when presenting a lesson rather than participating in a lesson as a student.
  • A sense of being part of a learning community larger than individual schools.
  • A sharing of approaches between staff and opportunity for staff to take risks in both observing and reviewing the way the lesson was delivered both at the venue and then back at their schools.

How was the activity organised?

  • Schools selected 4 students from each of the year levels 7, 8 & 9 to participate in the activity.
  • Students travelled with an accompanying staff member from their school to the host school
  • Each school acted as host for one particular year level and had the task of presenting the lesson, providing materials needed for students to be able to present the lesson when they returned to their own school and providing opportunity for students to discuss how they would structure their approach to the lesson by reflecting on their experiences as participants in the lesson. Each host school developed the schedule and approach to the day.
  • The host school also organised catering for the day.
  • Host school also responsible for follow-up contacts/activities.

Lessons selected for use

  • Year 7: How Many Can Stand?
  • Year 8: Famous Mathematicians
  • Year 9: Sphinx

Host School Reflections: Sphinx

Why was the lesson chosen?
  • it is a relatively simple lesson to present and complete in a short time
  • it incorporates problem solving and models 'Working Mathematically' well
  • it has the potential to be accessed by a range of ability levels and can be extended to the concept of 'proofs' if desired and if students are able.
Structure of the day
  • getting to know you activities (birthday line-up, toss the rat name game, stations elimination game) (about 10 minutes)
  • lesson delivery facilitated through Interactive White Board (IWB) flipchart (about 1 hour)
  • break
  • guided discussion in mixed school groups reflecting on lesson (about 1 hour)
  • lunch
  • key points for lesson, students in school groups with accompanying staff member to discuss approach in their own school (about 30 minutes)
  • General structure of the day seemed OK but felt rushed in the lesson delivery and did not pick-up the need to emphasise extensions sufficiently to make the lesson challenging for the more able students. Although challenging the participating students in the lesson was not initially seen as a major part of the activity. From my point of view the challenge for the students was more in getting them ready to be able to present the lesson to their peers so I wanted the task to be easily manageable.
  • In order to satisfy these objectives though I think that rather than telling students that there were four solutions to the Size 3 Sphinx (done so that these students as leaders would be in possession of the knowledge) it would be better to challenge them to find as many as they could and then explain how they could be sure that they had them all. (Time available prevented this but it certainly could be adopted and encouraged as students return to their schools)
  • Not having taught the lesson to a group of students before using this emphasis was a risk and in an effort to incorporate a range of possible extensions the lesson was probably not as well delivered as I would have liked. It was not important to introduce/cover the 'powers of 2' extension and this probably led to confusion rather than extension
  • I was a bit surprised that without direction a number of students had difficulty using the triangle paper to draw their solutions and that this part of the activity was quite time consuming, as well as being tedious according to the feedback from some students. A possible solution, if it is decided that it is not considered an important skill to use the triangle paper, would be to utilise the IWB to display solutions and then print these off so that students have a record of the activity. The challenge to determine the number of different solutions and then explain whether all have been found could be facilitated as a group activity.
  • Incorporating this lesson, as taught, as part of a normal Year 9 mathematics curriculum may be find difficulty in application to a particular topic. It may be more suitable at a lower Year level and consideration could be given to having these student leaders present to lower year levels rather than to peers as originally envisaged.


  • The initiative has been successful in bringing students together in a learning context and the vast majority of students identified that meeting other students was a good outcome.
  • The students felt capable of returning to their schools and presenting the lesson even though some are anticipating that it will be quite a challenge.
  • There is great potential for this initiative to be the stimulus for professional dialogue between participating teachers and students following the delivery of the lesson back in the home schools.
  • This aspect of the initiative is still to be finalised and will be reflected on at a later stage.

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