1 October 2016


I had a great time at #mathsconf8. Thanks to Mark McCourt and La Salle Education for organising another fantastic event for maths teachers.

Friday night
We had a big turnout at the pre-conference drinks on Friday. It was lovely to catch up with people I've not seen in a while. Workload was a common discussion point - sometimes it's helpful to let off steam about the challenges of the job as well as sharing the highlights.

The best part of the evening was our Pringles Enigma machine activity! When we visited Bletchley Park over summer we were treated to a display of a real Enigma machine by Tom (@TeaKayB). At the time Tom mentioned that it's possible to make an Enigma machine out of a Pringles tube so we invited him along to #mathsconf8 drinks to show us how! Here's what I came up with, assisted by @JoLocke1 (it works! We were able to decrypt a message). 
Kim (@MsKmp) didn't have a Pringles tube but managed to make her Enigma machine out of a wine bottle! If you're interested in having a go at this activity, all the instructions and materials are here.

At the pre-conference drinks I also chatted to Craig Barton. I was interested to hear that he has relaunched his website mrbartonmaths.com. For a resourceaholic like me, this is exciting news! I'm looking forward to exploring all the resources that Craig has pulled together. For every topic he has provided specifications, videos, worksheets, diagnostic questions, lessons, rich tasks, interactive resources and probing questions. Amazing.

The conference was brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed my day and went home feeling inspired.

The day kicked off with Mark McCourt talking us through the 1089 activity. I've heard of this activity before but not looked at it in detail. I really enjoyed doing the maths (even in base seven!) and can see that this would make a brilliant lesson for students. I hope to use it at school at some point this year.

I also enjoyed the speed dating session where I picked up a couple of excellent resources.

The first session I attended was Kris Boulton's talk on Engelmann. I saw the first part of this talk at researchED Maths and Science in June which I wrote about here.  Kris continued to talk about Engemann's ideas, including examples of how Kris has applied these ideas to his teaching. I find all of this really interesting, and it does make me question whether I use the most effective method of instruction.

It was interesting to see a snapshot of Kris' planning process for a sequence of lessons.
Thanks to @MathsWebb for this photo

I enjoyed watching videos of Kris' teaching in action, and was pleased that he spoke about the way he handled a student's negative behaviour (I don't think enough teachers speak about the challenges we face with regard to behaviour management, so this was refreshing to hear). The most striking thing Kris did in his video was remain silent when solving a pair of simultaneous equations on the board. I always talk through what I'm doing step by step, and I wonder if my talking distracts students from following what I'm writing. I need to think about this.

At the break I bought a calculator! It's likely my A level students will be using these next year so I'm going to start using it now to ensure I'm well practised by next September.

The second session I attended was about mastery and was delivered by Mark McCourt, a thoroughly entertaining and knowledgeable speaker. If you're interested in what Mark has to say about mastery, read his recent blog post #MasteryFail and look out for his next post too.

At lunch it was great to see so many teachers enjoying the maths activities at the Tweet Up.

After lunch I attended a session on subject knowledge by Ed Southall. I learnt lots from this session - my favourite thing was the word discorectangle (also known as a stadium). I learnt about the etymology of the word integer (not touching / standing alone).  I also learnt the difference between an oval and an ellipse (an ellipse has two lines of symmetry) and lots of other lovely snippets of maths knowledge. I love learning new things about my subject. You can download Ed's slides here.

All three sessions I attended were excellent.

I presented in the final slot of the day. My session was about new higher GCSE topics. I promised that I'd share my slides so you can use them to deliver training at school.
  • Here is the version I presented at the conference.
  • Here is the 'uncut' version which has lots of additional information. If you're presenting to your department I recommend using this one (split over two or three sessions).
  • Here are the GCSE questions that I used as a starter activity.

Links can be found in the slides themselves or in the notes section. I hope these slides are helpful, please let me know if I can clarify anything.
Thanks to @letsgetmathing for this photo

I really enjoyed catching up with Twitter friends and meeting lots of new people. Thanks to Mark McCourt for promoting my #christmaths16 event which you can buy tickets for here.

If you've not been to one of La Salle's maths conferences before, do come along to Bristol on 11th March or London on 24th June. Tickets will be available through mathsconf.com.

Finally, thanks to superstar Rob Smith for running the tuck shop and doing an amazing job of raising money for charity throughout the day. Every conference should have a tuck shop!


  1. Using a tuck shop as a way to raise money for charity is an effective way, as you can always rely on people buying sweets. Whether it be for themselves or to take home to their family.

  2. Hi Jo, I missed mathsconf this year, but am keeping up to date with your blogs. I am very interested in your presentation on new content, particularly the Iteration part. Have you done this with a particular exam board in mind or a mixture of information from the many?
    The reason I ask this is it seems (I have confirmation from AQA) that they do not require knowledge of the change of sign rule and also students will not be asked to rearrange equations into a particular iterative formulae. These formulae will be given and students will need to simply repeat the iterative process to find the converged solutions.
    Just thought I would check and pass on as it is a big difference in the required knowledge and skills dependant on the exam board students sit.

    1. Hi. Thank you! My presentation at mathsconf8 focused on AQA and Edexcel's specifications. Slide 4 (in the version I presented) shows the details behind the spec for AQA, and slide 5 shows the details for Edexcel. You're right that they are quite different.

      It's surprising to see these differences between boards as were expecting the content to be consistent. For this particular topic the Edexcel content is more thorough and more challenging than the AQA content.

      Thanks for checking with AQA and clarifying that the change of sign rule and rearranging is not on their spec, that's very helpful.