21 June 2015


I had a great day at La Salle Education's #mathsconf4 in the magnificent Grand Connaught Rooms in London yesterday. La Salle always do an amazing job of running fantastic events for maths teachers. I love these conferences - I always come away feeling inspired and excited to be a maths teacher. I also really enjoy meeting up with all the lovely people who I interact with on Twitter.

At the previous two conferences we heard from Vanessa Pittard of the Department for Education. The first time I heard her speak I was very interested in all she had to say - I learnt a lot about the politics and policies of maths education, but like others I was slightly aggrieved by her constant references to Shanghai and Singapore and the implication that maths teachers in the UK were 'substandard'. She did the exact same presentation at the next conference so it was a relief that we didn't have to hear it a third time yesterday. Instead we heard the very sensible views of Mark McCourt, who spoke about the dangers of assuming that pedagogical approaches that work well in one jurisdiction will work well in another.
A blurry photo of my table - @letsgetmathing, @El_Timbre, @WorkEdgeChaos, @DocendoTim, @tessmaths, @dwatson802, @mathszest, @MrMattock, @OxfordEdMaths

I also enjoyed the speed dating (ie resource sharing) session - I was given some lovely ideas by @mathszest and @Zfak102 - I'll feature these in future gems posts.

The first workshop I attended was 'From Euclid... to You' with the lovely @El_Timbre. In this session Emma talked us through her vast collection of fascinating maths books. I enjoyed seeing extracts from each book, such as the 'multiple ways to word a division question' pictured below (thanks to @danicquinn for the photo). It was also interesting to learn that issues in maths education in the UK (for example the lack of qualified maths teachers) have existed for decades.
The next session I attended was about Core Maths. My new school is offering Core Maths from September so it was important for me to find out what it's all about. It was a very informative session and I'm pleased to see that there's an excellent Core Maths Support Programme website for resources and case studies.

I was disappointed to miss Craig Jeavons' (@Craigos87) 'Best of the US' session. I often read US blogs and I've featured a number of ideas and resources from these blogs in my Maths Gems (such as Estimation 180, Visual Patterns, Open Middle and Graphing Stories) but there's lots I've not yet discovered. It sounds like the session was brilliant and everyone came away with lots of ideas to explore. I hope someone blogs about it!

After a nice hot lunch (thanks La Salle!) it was time for my highlight of the day - the Tweet Up! This was an opportunity to network and do some maths. Our Tweet Up team (led by the lovely Julia Smith) set up lots of fun activities for people to take part in.
The #mathsconf4 Tweet Up Team - Dawn, Nicke, Julia, Emma, Danielle, me, Tom and Martin
Thanks to Dawn (@mrsdenyer) for the fabulous 'you are following' t shirts
I ran a 'lowest positive integer competition' - I've previously written about this competition in my post about Open Evening. It was interesting to see the difference between maths teachers and children in their approach to choosing a number - when I do this activity on Open Evening the winning number is normally in the late teens and hundreds of children choose the number one. This time only two people chose one and the winning number was two! Lots of people chose prime numbers, especially 17 and 23. Well done to J Thomas for winning the prize.
I enjoyed meeting lots of new people and catching up with some familiar faces at the Tweet Up.
After lunch I attended a workshop about the new GCSE. I've already looked at the new GCSE specification and sample assessment materials in order to write my page 'New GCSE Support' (which is still work in progress) but there's some elements (eg area under a curve and rates of change) that I hadn't looked at in detail before this workshop. I was interested to learn how students are expected to work out the area under the curve pictured below - the Trapezium Rule is allowed but not essential. We were told that students would be required to use at least five shapes to estimate the total area. I found this session very helpful and would encourage any maths teacher who's not yet looked in detail at the new specification and sample questions to do so before September.
Find the total distance travelled and the acceleration at a certain time
The final session I attended was Martin Noon's (@letsgetmathing) 'Marking for the Reluctant Marker'. He shared lots of interesting assessment ideas that his department has tried. It was a very helpful talk and gave me lots to think about.

The maths cakes were amazing. I was pleased to see Dawn (@mrsdenyer) win the competition with her wonderful Pi cake.
I must say a big thank you to Tim Stirrup (@timstirrup) for delivering my awesome QAMA calculator at the conference. If you're not familiar with QAMA calculators, this extract from a Forbes article explains it nicely, "... QAMA stands for “Quick Approximate Mental Arithmetic” (and in Hebrew, it means “How much?”). As with most calculators, to solve a problem with a QAMA, you first do what you’d do with a regular calculator: type in the problem. But rather than just give you the answer right away, QAMA asks you for one more step: you have to estimate the answer. If your estimation demonstrates that you understand the math, the calculator will give you the precise answer. If your estimation isn’t close, then you have to try again before you get the precise answer.".
I ended the day with drinks and 'mathschat' in the bar with @MrBenWard@MissWhiteMaths, @amaxmaths, @dwatson802 and my awesome former colleague Sharon.

Thanks to everyone for a great day, see you at the next one!
My favourite badge from @OxfordEdMaths

Posts about previous maths conferences:

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