Using Diagnostic Questions in Maths

We were lucky to have Craig Barton visit our school last week. He introduced a wonderful and simple diagnostic tool, Diagnostic Questions. At the start of a lesson a teacher can quickly diagnose misconceptions and address them easily.

This is an example of how it works:

In my Grade 4 class I was re-introducing squared numbers  (last seen in Grade 3). I wanted to know who remembered the written format and who had misconceptions.

I showed the following slide:

Square Root Diagnostic Question

The students voted on the answer they thought was best. They needed to be prepared to explain their answer.

After the vote, I asked one representative from each answer to explain their thinking. Everyone heard each others’ explanation. (The teacher has no reaction.)

Spot the misconceptions!

10 – “Because 5 x 2 =10” (misconception: the squared sign is seen as “times 2”)

7 – “Because 5 + 2 = 7” (misconception: add the 5 and the 2)

25 – “Because 5 x 5 = 25” (these students understand the squared sign)

52 – “Because the ‘2’ was just written small” (misconception: superscript has no meaning in Maths)

Once all answers had been explained, we re-voted. By listening to each other, most students changed their vote to the correct answer. They were either reminded of the concept of squared numbers or they were convinced by a classmate.

The correct answer was discussed and a few examples given. As a teacher, I was now confident that my students would go into their Maths inquiries of squared numbers with no misconceptions. It is a very powerful tool.

Talk less. Ask more. (Taken from Kath Murdoch’s blog titled “How do inquiry teachers….teach?” I recommend it.)

Mindfulness: Think of Your Toes and Breathe!

Everything I need to know I learned in yoga class

  • set an intention or goal for  yourself
  • stay centered
  • watch the expert, try, tweak the position, try again, enjoy the moment
  • the more you practice, the better you get
  • be present
  • breathe


Yoga is about being mindful. Mindfulness, in the western sense, has become a buzz word. Be mindful. Teach mindfulness. But what does it mean? If you google Mindfulness+education you will find many sites dedicated to helping school teach the skills of mindfulness. One of my colleagues shared with me the .b website. “Dot B” stands for ‘stop and breathe and just be.’ Through a series of 9 lessons the aim is to give students mindfulness as a life skill. Students use it:

  • to feel happier, calmer and more fulfilled
  • to get on better with others
  • to help them concentrate and learn better
  • to help cope with stress and anxiety
  • to perform better in music and sport.

One of the skills to help us be more mindful is to stop, think of your toes and breathe. This simple strategy helps us refocus and concentrate.  Try it, it works!

Another technique they use with the older students is  asking them to text each other”.b” to remind each other to stop, breathe and be mindful.

Here is a TEDx talk by Richard Burnett, co-Founder and Creative Director of The Mindfulness in Schools Project: