Transition Year - Ordinary Level

Ideas for Teachers

TY is a great opportunity for teachers to design courses in topics which they like and which can push the boundaries with students.

Interesting things which teachers I know have taught are: The History of Maths; Linear, Quadratic and Cubic Equations and Graphs (with problems which lead to these); Solving Quadratics by ‘Completing the Square’ leading to deriving the quadratic formula and the nature of roots as determined by the discriminant ; Game Theory; Coding; Geogebra; Bridge.

TY is a good time to bed down some concepts. Probability throws up great opportunities: The Active Maths series has Workbooks available online. Use some of these to help your students to understand well the concepts involved.

Dice and cards are great for experimentation and tallying. TY is the time to do this. It’s too late in 5th and 6th years, when the pressure is on to complete the course.

Here’s something I often do in TY: I divide the class into teams of four. The teams should be evenly matched: one top student, one who got a B in the Junior cert, one who got a C – and one who is struggling. When I’ve finished a topic I hand out a Sample Paper. I give a full class for the teams to work on the paper in their groups of four. The good students have to make sure that the weaker guys understand and can do most of the problems. The next day I give a real paper to students as individuals. The team whose total is the greatest gets a prize. This method really works well – and can be used in any subject.

It’s important not to lose academic thrust in TY. Maths is important here. I like to give homework every class. Regular tests too.

You should facilitate your students to enter the AMC10 or the Cayley contest (organised by the University of Waterloo in Canada). These encourage the stronger students and gives them something to work towards.

Ask your students to read one book with a Maths theme during TY: Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh, The Simpson’s Book of Maths, or even The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Haddon has a thread of Maths through it. Does the school library have a good Maths section?

Bridge is a fantastic card game. It makes students think – and it has many mathematical angles. I’ve done modules on Bridge in TY, using the mini-bridge system: there are 10 steps:

  • Start by dividing a pack in the four suits. Dealer takes the spades. Deal deals 12 cards and each person gets three cards. The last card is turned face up in the centre of the table. N & S are a team. E and W are the opposite team. Dealer leads and the others follow. Top card wins and leads for the next trick. Whichever team makes the most tricks wins.
  • Now do the same with hearts. Keep going and keep records of total tricks won. Give prizes.
  • Now introduce two suits together. Spades & Hearts first. Dealer deals 26 cards: 6 each and two turned up in the centre. You introduce the two key rules of bridge: You must follow suit if you can AND if a spade is led then only the highest spade can win that trick.
  • Introduce all four together and play with 13 cards each.
  • Introduce HCPs: Ace = 4, King = 3, Queen = 2, Jack = 1. Deal all 52 cards (13 each). Players count and announce their HCP, starting with dealer. The team with the highest total are declarer & dummy; the other two are ‘the defence’. Declarer is the guy of ‘declarer & dummy’ who has the most points. If there is a ‘draw’ then the team or guy who bid first takes the job.
  • The guy to the left of declarer leads, then dummy’s cards are put on the table and play resumes, with declarer playing dummy’s cards.
  • Then introduce trumps. Trumps are chosen by declarer after the first card is led by the guy to his left (S, H, D, C or No Trumps). The rule of trumps is: a trump beats every card – except for a higher trump. But the first law of bridge still holds: you MUST follow the suit of the fist card of every trick if you can.
  • Then introduce points: 20 for tricks when Clubs or Diamonds are trumps; 30 for spade or heart tricks. No Trumps = 30, 40, 40, …
  • Finally introduce extra points for getting a game, small slam and grand slam. Now declarer declares the trump suit and the contract: 3 NT or 1 Heart or 4 Spades or 6 Diamonds. Defence get 50 for each undertrick.