24 April 2017

Gem Awards 2017

This week it's the third anniversary of resourceaholic.com. It's become a tradition for me to mark the anniversary of my blog by publishing an annual 'Gem Awards' post. Here I look back at all the ideas I've shared in my gems posts over the last year and choose some of my favourites.

1. CPD Award
This award goes to Craig Barton, whose brilliant podcasts have been a very welcome addition to the world of maths education over the last year. In his epic podcasts, Craig talks to a wide range of people about teaching maths, from classroom teachers to world famous education experts. Every episode gives us lots to think about.
Special mention to La Salle Education for continuing to run affordable, accessible, high quality conferences all year round. I really love their conferences and am very grateful for everything they contribute to the development of the maths teaching community.

2. Best New Resources
The winner of this award is @taylorda01 who has produced a large collection of incredibly useful 'Increasingly Difficult Questions'. I first featured these in Gems 59 and have since added all the links to my resource libraries. These well written questions are easy to use, printing nicely onto A5, and come with answers.
Special mention to Edexcel who really came to our rescue for some new GCSE topics with their set of supporting resources, as featured in Gems 64.

I should also mention my all time favourite resource makers Don Steward and MathsPad, who have continued to produce brilliant resources all year round.

3. Subject Knowledge Award
I think that one of the most important things a maths teacher can do is continually enhance their subject knowledge, no matter how experienced they are. This award goes to teacher trainer Ed Southall, who is leading the way on developing maths teacher subject knowledge. His recently published book 'Yes, But Why? Teaching for Understanding in Mathematics' has had unprecedented sales and rave reviews. I wrote a full review of it here. Ed frequently delivers subject knowledge presentations at conferences and has also recently started making videos which are well worth a look.



4. Best TES Resource Author
This award goes to Dan Walker, maker of outstanding resources for Key Stage 3 to 5. I wrote all about his resources in this post so do have a read to see lots of wonderful examples.

5. Best New Website
This award goes to Clarissa Grandi - the artiest maths teacher I know. I wrote about her beautiful website artfulmaths.com in Gems 57. It features classroom displays, creative lesson ideas and extra-curricular activities.

Special mention to Darren Carter for his website mrcartermaths.com. It is super slick and easy to navigate, instantly providing questions and answers for busy maths teachers. And because the answers are so accessible, it's a good revision tool for students to use at home too.

6. Best Video
This award goes to the 'Why the Metric System Matters' video that I featured in Gems 60. I showed it to my Year 7 class and they had a million questions about units afterwards! I'd never seen them so interested in anything before.



Special mention to 3Blue1Brown for their excellent range of videos, including the vectors video that I enjoyed sharing with my Year 13s.

7. Best Problems
This award goes to Underground Mathematics for continuing to expand their collection of excellent A level problems.

I should also mention brilliant.org, who won my Best Problems Award in the Gem Awards 2015. I still enjoy following their Facebook posts - many of their problems are suitable for my students.

8. Best Teacher Support
The White Rose Maths Hub definitely deserves an award for the huge amount of support that they offer to schools all over the country. Their schemes of work for both primary and secondary schools are really useful. Their assessments are also excellent, and they have recently launched a collection of multiple choice questions on one of my favourite websites - diagnosticquestions.com. These questions are aimed at primary schools but I regularly use them with my Year 7s.
Special mention goes to the Mathematical Association - their Twitter account is an absolute 'must follow' for maths teachers, keeping us all up-to-date on news and developments in maths education.

9. Best Interactive Tool
This award goes to MathsPad for their excellent exterior angles tool. MathsPad has a great range of quality interactive tools for demonstrating concepts.


Special mention to the zoomable number line on mathsisfun.com - my Year 7s were genuinely excited when I used it in a place value lesson.

10. Lifetime Achievement
John Corbett is definitely too young to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award! But I'm giving him one anyway. His awesome website corbettmaths.com continues to go from strength to strength. I regularly use his textbook exercises and send my students links to his videos. I'm using his Higher and Higher Plus 5-a-day in all of my Year 11 revision lessons. His lovely revision cards have been very popular too. I wrote more about corbettmaths.com in this post. Thank you John - you're amazing!

That's it for the 2017 Gem Awards! What a fantastic collection of ideas and resources. Thank you to everyone who tweets about what they've tried in their classroom. It's so inspirational. If you want to read more Maths Gems, there's an index here. For highlights, check out Gem Awards 2016 and Gem Awards 2015 too.

Finally, while we're on the subject of awards, I'd like to say an enormous thank you to all of my readers for their ongoing support. I'm incredibly pleased to say that I won the Individual Education category at the UK Blog Awards 2017. I think this may be one of my greatest achievements ever, and I couldn't be more happy. I'm truly grateful to all my readers.





13 April 2017

Maths Anxiety

A lot has been written about maths anxiety in children. I have a Year 7 student who always complains that he 'can't do it' before he's even tried. It's clear to me where his anxiety stems from - unlike his peers, he doesn't know his times tables well, which makes many simple tasks (long multiplication, simplifying fractions etc) really difficult for him.

But this post isn't about maths anxiety in students. It's about maths anxiety in maths teachers. Whatever your job, when you stand up and say you're an expert at something, you naturally feel some anxiety that you'll get caught out. This isn't something unique to teaching. In my previous career in banking I often worried that I'd be asked a question that I couldn't answer. 

I experience most of my maths anxiety on Twitter, where I worry about saying something stupid and being publicly criticised by clever mathematicians. But I also sometimes feel a bit of maths anxiety in the classroom. I'm willing to bet that some of you do too.

1. The 'stupid mistake on the board' anxiety
I do this way more than I should! It's harder than it looks to simultaneously solve a mathematical problem, write on the board, address a class of 34 students, manage behaviour, and a thousand other things all at the same time. It's fairly common for me to say the number five as I write the number eight, and other equally silly things. When I taught at a girls' grammar school my students didn't have much tolerance for silly mistakes so I used to let it get to me, but now my lovely students just laugh with me, so I have more of a sense of humour about it.

It's good for students to see a real person doing real maths, and making mistakes in the same way they do. It will probably make them feel better about their own anxieties.
The worst thing is when no one notices, because that suggests that no one was paying attention! In a recent Year 12 lesson I made a mess of my solutions to a trigonometric equation (temporary craziness with the symmetry of a cosine graph) and no one said anything until later in the lesson when a student was looking back over his notes. Was no one even following what I was doing on the board? That's more worrying than me making a mistake in the first place!

2. The 'genius in the class' anxiety
It's taken me a while to accept that some students may be better at maths than me! Last year I taught a really clever Year 13 Further Maths class and they certainly kept me on my toes. Twice I had to tweet during a lesson to ask for help on questions they'd asked me!

Over the years I've got a lot better at saying 'I'll think about it and get back to you' if I'm asked a particularly tricky question. Then it's really satisfying when I work it out and am able to give them a good answer. 

3. The 'mind blank' anxiety
Often when I'm out for a meal with friends, they'll ask me to split the bill. Inevitably I'll have a total mind blank and completely forget how to do a simple division. It can be hard to do mental maths under pressure.
Of course, maths teachers are used to having maths problems sprung on them out of the blue. It's common for students to suddenly ask you to check an answer or figure out where they went wrong. It's absolutely fine to take a couple of minutes to look through their work. We put unnecessary pressure on ourselves.

4. The 'I have no idea how to do this question' anxiety
A lovely colleague of mine was recently teaching algebraic proof to Year 11 when she got stumped on this example, which she'd taken from the AQA Teaching Guidance:

Prove that the product of three consecutive positive integers must always be a multiple of 6

She wrote n(n+1)(n+2) on the board and expanded it, but then she got stuck. Her students waited while she struggled to work out what to do next. She gave up and admitted she didn't know, and they said, "Miss, if you can't do it, what chance have we got?". She was embarrassed and frustrated after the lesson. She asked me how to do it - I only knew because I've seen a similar question before. Things get easier with experience.

5. The 'I've never taught this before' anxiety
I was seriously rubbish the first time I taught C4 integration. Now I'm on my fifth time teaching it, I'm a million times better - in fact I now really enjoy it.

The first time we teach a new topic, we can feel like we're only one step ahead of our students. There are some new GCSE topics that many teachers haven't taught before. In this case it might be helpful to watch a video (eg Corbett Maths or Hegarty Maths) in advance - hearing another teacher explain a topic is really good preparation for teaching.



If you suffer from any maths teacher anxiety, I can assure you that you're not alone. Here are a few words of advice: 
  • Admit to any silly mistakes you make in lessons, and be relaxed about it - joke with your students that you were just checking they were paying attention. 
  • I'm sure you're awesome at maths. Of course you are. It's crazy to even doubt that. Being good at maths isn't something that goes away with age. Sure, we forget things, but we're smart enough to pick things up quickly. One of the joys of maths is getting the right answers, and you get plenty of right answers, so don't let the odd silly mistake suck the fun out of it.
  • Mental arithmetic mind blanks in lessons are easily dealt with - just throw the question out to the class. Someone will get it right, and if not then you've bought enough time to work it out.
  • If you genuinely aren't confident with a topic and you make errors that go beyond 'silly mistakes', then you do need to fix that as a matter of priority. Perhaps a bit more practice in advance of the lesson would be a good idea. The first time I taught FP1 I completed all the examples and exercises before every lesson. It's time consuming but important.
  • Don't let your students know if you lack confidence or you don't know a topic well. It's really important that they trust you. I know a teacher who recently told every parent at Parents Evening that she's an NQT and not entirely sure what she's doing. This is not a good idea! It undermines your authority. Even if you don't feel confident and enthusiastic, you must come across as confident and enthusiastic during lessons.
  • Know that it gets better with experience, and that if things don't always go to plan now, don't worry - in a few years it will be easier. You'll still make mistakes in lessons sometimes, because you're human. And that's ok.





10 April 2017

5 Maths Gems #71

Welcome to my 71st gems post. This is where I share some of the latest news, ideas and resources for maths teachers.

1. GCSE Revision Resources
Grant (@AccessMaths) has recently published loads of great GCSE revision resources. You can check out the full collection at accessmaths.co.uk.

Resources include Crossover Problems, Octagon Revision Mats and Pentagon Problems. These all work well printed on A3.

2. Desmos Geometry
The awesome people at Desmos have created Desmos Geometry. It looks like it will be just as slick, accessible and user-friendly as their graphing calculator, so this is exciting news. It's currently in Beta and you can read more about it here. I'm looking forward to seeing how it develops.

Do check out Desmos's classroom activities if you haven't discovered them yet. If you have access to a functioning IT room, or a class set of tablets, these make great lessons - I wrote about Polygraph a couple of years ago, and have since used Waterline with great success.

3. Always, Sometimes, Never
Some classic maths activities never get old. I remember the first time I did an Always, Sometimes, Never activity from the Standards Unit in my NQT year. It generated brilliant mathematical discussion and was a really worthwhile lesson. Sarah Carter recently shared another great example of an Always, Sometimes, Never activity for teaching averages:


There are some good Always, Sometimes, Never activities on MathsPad, Nrich and TES. And here are some examples that were shared on Twitter by Mark McCourt (@EmathsUK) a while ago:



4. Pick a Card
The Underground Mathematics team at Cambridge have been busy expanding their collection of A level resources. In this 'Pick a card...' exercise, the content of one card is revealed by clicking on it and students have to decide whether they can work out the rest of the answers. There are some lovely follow up questions to consider, such as "Which card would be the easiest to start from?" and "Does each card always give enough information to uniquely identify the quadratic function?". If you teach A level do check out these excellent resources.
5. Perpendicular Gradient
I shared an animation in Gems 60 which demonstrates the relationship between the gradients of perpendicular lines. I've now found a video which shows the same thing. This is really clear and useful. Thanks to @MathWithMonkeys for sharing it.



Update
Hurrah for the holidays! I've been away to sunny Devon with my family over the last few days. I'm going back to school on 18th April for the final exam countdown with my Year 11s, 12s and 13s.

Since my last gems post I've blogged five times - here's what I've written, in case you missed anything:
  • Yes, But Why? which features extracts from Ed Southall's new book
  • Update! which provides an update on recent improvements to my resource libraries
  • Papers Society which is about something I'm trying with my Year 11s this year - this post appeared in Schools Week's 'Top Blogs of the Week' column
  • Ultra Outreach Project which is about an opportunity for free enrichment in high-PP schools 
  • #mathsconf9 which is a write-up of the Bristol maths conference - this seems like ages ago now!

I feature as a special guest co-host in the next episode of Colin Beveridge and Dave Gale's podcast Wrong, But Useful. It's out later this week so do have a listen. Speaking of podcasts, check out Craig Barton's latest podcast with Dani Quinn - his most controversial one yet!

Don Steward has been busy posting new resources lately, including some tasks for new GCSE topics which will be added to my resource libraries this week. I've now added all of @taylorda01's 'Increasingly Difficult Questions' to my libraries too. I also made two new resources of my own:

All of my resources are available to download from TES, and appear in my resource libraries.

Quadratic Points from Don Steward


Look out for another round of my Annual Gem Awards later this month - the third anniversary of my blog is fast approaching.









1 April 2017

Yes, But Why?

I'm sure you've already heard about Ed Southall's new book 'Yes, But Why? Teaching for Understanding in Mathematics'. It was published less than a month ago and is already on its third print run. It has been incredibly well received by both primary and secondary teachers - everyday I see tweets about how useful it is.

I remember a couple of years ago when Ed (@solvemymaths) first had the idea of writing this book. There was no subject knowledge handbook for trainee maths teachers - it was a clear gap in the market. By writing one, Ed has provided something that maths education badly needed - an expertly written reference manual for mathematics teaching.

People assume that a maths degree is sufficient subject knowledge for teaching secondary mathematics, but there's a lot more to it than that. In maths, subject knowledge includes knowing common misconceptions, effective teaching approaches, alternative methods, underlying concepts, links between topics, interesting maths facts and stories, and more... Even the most experienced maths teachers with high levels of subject-specific expertise can develop their knowledge further.

Since reading Ed's book I've noticed a subtle shift in my teaching style. For example I found myself excitedly talking to my Year 11 class about the difference between an ellipse and an oval. They were surprisingly fascinated - one of them was really pleased with himself when he spotted the link to the word ovary. And in a recent lesson on geometric proof, I talked for a while about Euclid - it was the longest period of silence I've had from that class! They genuinely seemed enthralled. A highly knowledgeable teacher is confident and engaging. That's the kind of teacher I want to be.

In this post I've featured a few extracts from 'Yes, But Why? Teaching for Understanding in Mathematics' to give you an idea of why it's worth buying.

Statistical Graphs
Histograms are really unpopular amongst GCSE teachers. I'm a statistician and even I admit that I don't look forward to teaching this topic. Ed explains very clearly why histograms use frequency density instead of frequency - in fact I plan to use his examples next time I teach it.


Ed's book tells me that histograms were developed by English mathematician Karl Pearson in around 1910. This is of personal interest to me because Karl Pearson was the man who founded the world's first university statistics department at University College London in 1911 (the very same department where I did my statistics degree ninety years later).

Given that maths teachers often find statistics difficult to teach (or even, dare I say, not enjoyable...), I think that the statistics chapter of Ed's book will be incredibly useful. In the section on pie charts, Ed shares a good example of a useless pie chart, and encourages teachers to discuss the pros and cons of each type of statistical graph with students.


Teacher Tips
Practical tips feature regularly throughout the book. This tip regarding area is very sensible - asking students to find the area of a parallelogram when only the base and perpendicular height have been provided seems a little silly.
Deriving y = mx + c
I'm guilty of telling students that the equation of a straight line is y = mx + c without telling them why. If they know that gradient is 'change in y ÷ change in x', then it's pretty simple to derive y = mx + c, as shown below.


This is obvious, if you stop and think, yet I've never shared this with my students. I guess the problem is that for teachers, right from day one of their training, there is no time to stop and think.

Measurements
The book features a list of unusual units of measure, and lots of other wonderfully geeky mathematical trivia. I love this stuff!


'Yes, But Why? Teaching for Understanding in Mathematics' is informative, witty, enjoyable and incredibly useful. It's available to buy now. If you're still undecided, you can preview the first chapter here. Let me know what you think.








25 March 2017

Update!

This is just a quick post to let you know about some improvements to resourceaholic.com and some upcoming events.

New Menus
Three years ago I set up my resource libraries, where I share hundreds of hand-picked resources for Key Stage 3, 4 and 5. I use these libraries everyday when I'm planning lessons. My aim is to ensure that teachers can quickly and easily access free, high quality resources for all secondary maths topics.

Over the last year I've added lots of resources for the new GCSE. I worry that my libraries are becoming hard to navigate, so I've added some new functionality.

At the top of each resource library, you will now find 'quick links'. The example below is taken from my number library. These links will take you straight to resources for each topic, which should save you time when you're planning lessons. I hope you find this helpful.

I have resource libraries for number, algebra, shape, data, core AS, core A2, statistics, further and mechanics. The best way to access my resource libraries is from the main menu at the top of the website. By September I will publish a resource library for the new A level too.

Other pages that might help you find what you're looking for on my blog include the blog archive, the gems page, and the side menus. There's a search tool on the sidebar too.

Upcoming Events
On my Conferences Page I list maths conferences in the current academic year.

On Sunday 7th May I'm going to Stuart Price's A level event Maths in the Sticks. I attended this event last year and it was really good - particularly because it includes a delicious roast dinner and a glass of wine!

On Saturday 24th June I'm going to La Salle's #mathsconf10. This is taking place in London (but not Central London like last time - those of you coming by train, note that it's all the way out in Zone 6). I always enjoy La Salle's conferences. I'm thinking about presenting at this one.

On Tuesday 27th June I'm excited to be going to Alton Towers for the JustMaths Conference. Representatives from the awarding bodies will be out in force at this event and it will be a good opportunity to take an in-depth look at the new GCSE shortly after the first sitting.

As I like maths conferences so much, I will probably go to #mathsconf11 on 8th July in Cardiff too.

I also plan to organise another maths teachers' trip to Bletchley Park - I'll provide more information on this soon.

Lots to look forward to!

Popular Posts
Finally, just to mention that my revision posts are getting a lot of attention at the moment as exam season approaches:

And did you catch my recent posts?

Thanks for reading! I hope to see you at an event this summer.









19 March 2017

Papers Society

When I worked at a girls' grammar school, I took it for granted that my students would do loads of past papers in the months leading up to their GCSE and A level exams. They didn't need much encouragement, they just got on with it. At A level they'd often end up doing every single past exam paper so I'd have to hunt for extra resources. I thought this was normal.

Two years ago I moved to a boys' comprehensive school. Last year I taught a Year 13 boy who had achieved a grade E at AS level. One day we sat down and talked about what he could have done differently in Year 12. I asked him how many papers he'd done in the lead up to his AS exams. "None", he replied - totally straight-faced. I almost fell off my chair. "None?! No, seriously - C1 papers for example - did you do many?". "No. I didn't do any papers at all," he replied, with a smirk... He ended up with a U at A2. My first ever U at A2, and hopefully my last.
Later in the year, I was teaching a Year 11 class who were worrying me. Many were working at a grade C or B when they were more than capable of grade As. I took numerous approaches to fixing this - one of which was to impress on them the importance of exam practice. I knew that it would be a challenge to get them to do lots of exam papers - it just wasn't in the school's culture in the way it had been at my previous school. I invited them to come back after school and do papers with me once a week. A group of four students took me up on my offer and came every week for a few months. Those four boys ended up smashing their GCSE exams... Perhaps the papers they'd done with me had made a difference, or at least the work ethic I'd helped develop.

I've approached this a bit differently with my current Year 11 class, in the hope that it will have a bigger impact.

In January I had a Year 11 Parents Evening. During Parents Evening I spoke to every student and their parents about the importance of doing lots of exam practice. I told them that they are competing for top grades against students who would had already done dozens of papers by that point in the year. I told them about the four students I taught last year who exceeded expectations because they'd done papers with me after school. It got their attention. I then handed them my leaflet:

The plan was simple: I'd be available after school every Monday from February half term until their summer exams. I'd have biscuits. I'd have papers. It would not be a lesson or an 'intervention'. It would be optional. Papers with friends, simple as that. I'd just be there to provide help if and when they needed it.

The parents' reaction was fantastic. Most immediately said to their son "Right, you're definitely going to that". The best bit is, the students agreed. "This way, I get to do regular maths revision, and I don't have to make myself do it at home. Because I know I won't do it there".

One mum even enthusiastically said to her son "There'll be biscuits! You love biscuits. It's worth going just for that"!

I'm pleased to say I now have 21 students who come to my Papers Society every week. They come along to my classroom after school, grab a paper and work through it for an hour while they eat biscuits (well, they hoover the biscuits up in the first five minutes... it only costs £1.40 a week and genuinely seems to entice them to attend!). It's quite relaxed - some listen to music, some chat with friends while they work.

I'm so relieved that my students are now doing exam papers regularly. I'm mainly using Linked Pair papers because we have loads already printed out from previous years. The weekly practice my students are doing after school is in addition to the Churchill Papers that they took home to do over half term and in the Easter holidays.

I have detailed plans for helping my Year 11s prepare for their exams in maths lessons after Easter, and I expect that the amount of independent practice they do at home will increase as the exam gets closer. My Papers Society is just part of a bigger picture. But it seems to be a very successful initiative for increasing the amount of exam preparation my students are doing from earlier in the year, so I thought I'd share it here in case other teachers want to try the same thing. In schools where Year 11s already have a great work ethic, this sort of thing probably isn't necessary. But if you think your students could be doing more, this idea might work for you.

If only I had more days in the week when I was free after school, I'd run something similar for my A level classes too.







15 March 2017

Ultra Outreach Project

One of the most important parts of a maths teacher's role is to get students excited about maths. The next generation of mathematicians is sitting in our classrooms right now, waiting to be inspired. I've written previously about in-school speakers and workshops for maths enrichment. I've also written about maths trips and maths clubs. These things are all brilliant and just require a bit of organisation and some money in the maths department budget. But who has money in the budget? Not many schools. Most of it goes on photocopying! Today I'm writing about an opportunity to have an amazing day of maths enrichment in your school for free!

Last summer I visited Bletchley Park with some maths friends from Twitter. It's a wonderful place and I highly recommend a visit. While we were there, we were treated to a private viewing of a genuine and fully-functional World War II Enigma machine, along with an entertaining and informative talk from their Education Manager, Thomas Briggs. Tom and his team spend a lot of time visiting schools all over the country with their Enigma machine, getting children excited about code breaking and mathematics. This outreach programme is extremely popular, and many schools book visits year after year. 

The sessions at schools are based around codes, ciphers and the story of Bletchley Park. Most schools request that the same session is repeated to a number of class-sized groups throughout the day. This usually costs £562.50 plus expenses for a full day's visit. 
I don't think many schools know about Bletchley Park's bursary programme, which is named 'Ultra' after the codename given to Bletchley Park's intelligence. Under this programme, the in-school experience is totally free for schools who meet the programme's criteria. Schools with a high level of Pupil Premium eligibility are likely to meet the criteria, so if this applies to your school then I encourage you to make enquiries by completing this form. It's such a wonderful opportunity for your students.

You can read more about Bletchey Park's school trips and outreach programmes here

I'd love to hear about your school's experiences with Bletchey - please comment below!


Twitter maths teachers trip to Bletchley Park, Summer 2016




12 March 2017

#mathsconf9

What a fantastic weekend! I'm feeling inspired.

I travelled to Bristol on Friday morning to attend an AQA Expert Panel meeting. These meetings take place three times a year and always involve really interesting discussions. One of the things we looked at in detail on Friday was the new wordier format of AQA mark schemes - I think people will like the approach they are taking here.

On Friday night I enjoyed a lovely dinner with fellow teachers, then we joined the rest of the pre-conference gang in the pub. Ed Southall, Craig Barton and I shared a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the launch of Ed's fantastic new book 'Yes, but why? Teaching for understanding in mathematics'.
It was a great night and I stayed up relatively late (as a mum of a two year old and five year old, I don't get out much!) so I was a bit delicate in the morning...
The conference on Saturday was brilliant as ever, with a particularly good set of workshops to choose from. The venue was unusual - a school rather than a conference centre - but it worked well. I was far more relaxed than usual because I wasn't delivering a workshop - it was nice to enjoy the day as a delegate without the nerves.
The first new thing I spotted at the conference was Propellor's A3 Whiteboard Kits. These double sided dry wipe activity boards are designed for primary but might also work well as a daily activity at Key Stage 3.
John Corbett was also there selling his lovely GCSE revision cards which you can order here.
Nick Waldron (@W4LDO) gave me an oloid, which is awesome - I spent much of the train journey home rolling it across a table!
The first workshop I attended was 'From Abacus to Zero' in which Ed Southall talked us through the interesting origins of various maths words and symbols. There's so much I hadn't noticed before - I enjoyed hearing about the mathematical connections in words like onion, twine, simple, finger and dubious.
I made loads of notes and hope to weave my new knowledge into future lessons.

Watch Ed's video on polygons for a flavour of this workshop. You can download his slides here. And do buy his book!

The second session I attended was 'Where your Y11s will go wrong in this summer's Maths GCSE and what you can do about it now' by Craig Barton. Craig is such a great presenter. His session really got me thinking about where I need to focus my Year 11 revision lessons after Easter. He listed the ten topics that current Year 11s have provided the least correct answers for on diagnosticquestions.com (Craig's data set consists of a massive 4 million questions answered). We looked at some student responses to try to understand their misconceptions. The topics were: 1. Working with y = mx + c 2. Writing ratios 3. Enlargement 4. Tree diagrams (conditional) 5. Upper and lower bounds 6. Expanding double brackets 7. Angles in parallel lines 8. Multiples and LCM  9. Circumference of a circle 10. Sketching quadratics.

Craig talked about the best way to tackle gaps in students' knowledge and understanding, emphasising the need for 'purposeful practice' rather than rushing ahead to more complex problem solving. As Craig said, 'If they're not secure in the basics, what's the flippin' point?'.

Craig pointed us in the direction of his fantastic website for good resources, drawing particular attention to some of Don Steward's rich tasks (or, as Craig calls him, 'Big Donny').
Viola!

At lunch it was the Tweet Up - many thanks to the team @danicquinn, @letsgetmathing, @ColonelPrice, @BetterMaths, @MrMattock and @MrCarterMaths and to everyone who came along to try the activities.

I ran a light-hearted 'vote for your least favourite topic to teach' table (the opposite of the #mathsworldcup). The winner was congruence. It was very interesting to see what teachers chose as the topics that they find hardest to teach or don't enjoy, and to hear their reasons. Thanks to everyone who came and said hello!
My third workshop was 'Guide to the A level Reforms' by Katie Arundel from Brix Learning. I'm fairly familiar with the changes but I feel like I need to start focusing on A level reforms a bit more now that some of the specifications have been accredited. We took a look at some of the new A level questions, and my main takeaway from this session was a better understanding of how the 'large data set' stuff will work in practice. I found out that Geogebra is much better than Excel for drawing graphs (box plots in one click, apparently), which was news to me - I thought that Geogebra was only for geometry. I also had a good chat with teacher Shaun Hatton (@shaunh2357) who uses Brix's learning platform - this is an online homework package for A level students. He spoke very positively about it and it does sound like something I'd consider for my A level classes next year, depending on cost.
In the final session Lucy Rycroft-Smith (@honeypisquared) from Cambridge Mathematics stepped in at the last minute to run a workshop on research. Because it was a late addition to the programme we were a small group - around 15 of us - which was lovely because we all got to introduce ourselves and join in the discussion. There was a really interesting range of experience in the room, including both primary and secondary specialists. It made me realise how diverse attendees of La Salle's conferences are. Lucy's session was about the importance of - and barriers to - using research in teaching. We had a look at her Espressos in which she succinctly summarises recent research that's relevant to maths teachers - these are definitely worth a look. There's some really interesting work being done on curriculum by the team at Cambridge and I look forward to hearing more from them over the coming years.
I was pleased with the good mix of workshops I attended - one on subject knowledge, one on GCSE, one on A level and one on research. I got a lot out of the day.

I always really enjoy chatting to maths teachers at conferences. It's wonderful to be reminded that we're part of a huge maths education community that reaches so much further than the teachers I talk to on Twitter every day. Common themes of discussion at this conference were the challenges of behaviour (which is unacceptably bad in so many schools... what's going on in this country...?), the upcoming GCSE, and the changes to A level.

I know I say this every time, but I can't wait for the next conference! Conveniently for me, it's in London on 24th June. Saying that, I'm always happy to travel for these conferences and am also looking forward to the Sheffield conference on 30th September, and possibly the Cardiff and Dunfermline conferences too. We're very fortunate that La Salle run such high quality, accessible and affordable events for maths teachers throughout the year.

If you want to present at one of the four upcoming conferences, La Salle are taking workshop proposals here.

In case you're interested, my previous maths conference blog posts can be found here:
#mathsconf8 (September 2016)
#mathsconf6 (March 2016)
#mathsconf5 (September 2015)
#mathsconf4 (June 2015)
#mathsconf2015 (March 2015)
Gems 8 (September 2014)

See you all at the next one!