6 March 2016


After every maths conference I could blog for hours about all the stuff I learnt, but I'll try to keep it short today.

On Friday morning I got the train up to Peterborough for the first meeting of AQA's new Maths Expert Panel. It was great group of people and a really constructive day. I look forward to the next meeting. Afterwards I had a lovely dinner at the hotel with Julia, Danielle and Nikki. We then headed to the pub for the pre-conference drinks. It was great to see so many people there - I really enjoyed meeting new people and catching up with all the regular conference-goers. Emma, Siobhan and I got back to the hotel shortly after midnight.
On Saturday morning we headed over to the conference after a nice breakfast. I was much more chilled out than I usually am. Because I didn't run a workshop at this conference I wasn't nervous, and I wasn't lugging around my laptop and handouts, so I felt very relaxed.

The conference started with a wonderful surprise - Julia had an absolutely incredible cake made for me to celebrate my 50th gems post. I'm overwhelmed by this generosity and thoughtfulness and I am so grateful to Julia, my Twitter friends and my blog readers. The attention to detail on the cake was amazing, including little icing versions of puzzles and resources, a to do list and a laptop. I was a bit sad when I saw the beautiful cake cut up later on but I was pleased to get to eat a piece - it was delicious. Thank you to whoever saved the laptop for me!
Speaking of cakes, as usual all the entries in the cake competition were awesome. Have a look at the tweets on the hashtag #mathsconf6 for pictures.

I loved Rob Smith's excellent Tuck Shop - every event should have one!
I also enjoyed the Tweet Up at lunch.
Well done to Miguel for winning my lowest unique positive integer competition (2 was the winning number!) and well done to Megan Guinan for completing her Pringle construction!
I won't go into great detail about the sessions I attended, but here are a few highlights:
  • Pete Mattock delivered an excellent session on conceptual understanding of maths. He made me think differently about significant figures. His work on directed numbers and fractions was really interesting. His slides are here.
  • I very much enjoyed Ben Stafford's session on assessment. We did a useful exercise in which we marked some exam questions and compared our decisions to AQA's. We also looked at how exam questions are written. I particularly liked the question pictured below which originated from Duncan Carr, a teacher from Midlands. Ben showed us how this question was turned into an exam question - it's interesting to see the precision of language used in external exams.

  • Craig Jeavons delivered a nice session about his approaches to problem solving. It's rare for me to hear about a maths website that I don't already know about - Craig shared American website emergentmath.com which I'm looking forward to exploring. Craig's slides are here.
  • I think it's vital to be well-informed about the new qualifications so I attended the 'Ask the Awarding Bodies' session. The panel answered the questions well, though I already knew most of the answers from my own reading and from following discussions on Twitter. The big question for most schools at the moment is whether to prepare students for Foundation or Higher (the general feeling is that 'C/D borderline' students will struggle to get any marks on Higher papers). I asked the panel for their views on the changes to A level - it was interesting to hear from both Andrew and Graham that they think the current modular approach works well (though of course there are pros and cons to modular A levels). It is a shame that the changes might lead to a reduction in the number of students taking Further Maths. 
There were far fewer sessions at this conference than at previous conferences, but I still got a lot out of the day and enjoyed it very much. Thank you to everyone who presented and to La Salle for organising the event. Thank you also to everyone who I chatted to (I won't list everyone here, but you know who you are!), who gave me lifts (Ben, Nikki, Tom) and who gave me feedback on my blog. I'm looking forward to seeing many of you again at the events of the next few months, including my Don Steward event, Julia's Easter Maths Camp, Stuart's Maths in the Sticks and Tom Bennett's researchED Maths and Science. See my conferences page for a listing of maths education events in 2015/16.

My posts about previous maths conferences are here:
#mathsconf5 (September 2015)
#mathsconf4 (June 2015)
#mathsconf2015 (March 2015)
Gems 8 (September 2014)

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