23 December 2015


It's hard to know what to write about #christmaths15 because I'm still a bit overwhelmed by it all.

A few months ago I decided that I wanted to run an event which would provide an opportunity for teachers to talk about the new GCSE. Importantly, I didn't want it to be an event just for tweeters - I wanted it to be open to anyone who had an interest. Originally I was thinking of a cross between a TeachMeet and #pieandmaths (which I wrote about here) - a combination of CPD and a social event. I've always enjoyed throwing parties and Christmas seemed like the ideal time to do so.

Once I started contacting potential venues, I realised that it was going to be far more difficult than I originally thought. I couldn't find a large, well-located pub function room that had AV facilities and was available for free hire for a whole afternoon and evening. I searched high and low and was about to give up when I stumbled upon Pause Bar, which is a function venue located in the City of London - my stomping ground when I worked in Banking.
I was required to order food in advance which meant I had to charge for tickets - this wasn't ideal because I was hoping to make it a free event, but I decided to take a gamble that people would be willing to pay. I booked it at half-term, putting down a hefty deposit which wiped out my meagre savings. I instantly regretted it! The pressure was on.

Over the following month my husband was subjected to constant updates - 'I just sold another ticket! Wooo!' and 'I haven't sold a ticket in 2 days! This is a disaster' - that kind of thing. Thankfully it did sell out pretty quickly, showing that there is strong demand for events like this. I ended up with a waiting list.

I had a lot of decisions to make - speakers, food, drinks, music, puzzles, quizzes, handouts... My budget was pretty tight so it was all very DIY (it took forever to print the programmes on my home printer!). I did my best to make it all as slick and professional as possible. AQA very kindly provided materials relating to the new GCSE (and free pens!). Emma Bell (@El_Timbre) provided puzzles and Rob Beckett (@RBeckett_Yd) brought along copies of Chalkdust Magazine. I couldn't afford a DJ so did a playlist myself, and I wrote my own quiz (which is here, if you'd like a go! Answers available on request). From the £25 ticket price, £2.50 went straight to EventBrite and around £22 went on food, drink and service. With the remainder I bought everyone a Lindt teddy!
Thankfully things went well on the day. The venue looked pretty, sparkling with Christmas lights. The welcome drinks went down well and the food was very nice. People seemed to have a good time. Most importantly, the CPD was very well received. There were a couple of problems -  the wifi was intermittent and some people couldn't see the screen from their seat. I'm hugely sorry about these things. Otherwise I think it was a success. I was incredibly anxious in the weeks leading up to the event so I'm very relieved it went quite smoothly on the day.

The speakers were brilliant. I knew they would be. I am hugely grateful to all of them. I will write another post about the key ideas I took from their sessions, and I will share their presentations if I can.

Who bought me a Jägerbomb at 6.30pm?! You know who you are! I had no chance of surviving the night in one piece after that. Mel (@Just_Maths) was on top form too, getting in round after round of Baby Guinness. For the last couple of hours there were only a dozen of us left but we had such an awesome time.
Tweeters enjoying the party
Sambuca with Tom Quilter of pinpointlearning.co.uk. (Rob Smith photoboming!)

I really enjoyed chatting to so many lovely people - I can't list them all here but they know who they are. Huge thanks to my friends who helped me set everything up at the start of the event, those who bought me drinks and those who called me a taxi at the end of the night. Thank you also to everyone who either came to the event or supported me in some way (particularly my long-suffering husband!).

I was given a card which was signed by my guests - I'm incredibly touched by this. I will treasure it.
I can't make any promises that I'll run another event next year! At times I was really stressed about it all. It was certainly the biggest project I've ever taken on. Hosting a party is hard work and at times I said 'never again', but I know what I'm like - I can't resist! I'm not sure about the venue though, and the jury's out on whether it will be summer or Christmas. Watch this space!

Finally, here's a Storify of the tweets from before, during and after the event. It's lovely to read through and see how much people enjoyed themselves. I'm really chuffed.

Merry Christmas everyone! From a very tired but happy @mathsjem.


  1. Jo it was brilliant and I know we are all seriously impressed that you organised such an event - a massive thank you. Quite something - 90 enthusiastic Maths teachers many of whom were probably there on the first day of their holidays!

    1. Thank you Colleen, that means a lot to me. Thank you also for presenting an excellent session.