12 March 2017


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').

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!


  1. Thanks for this excellent summary Jo - just the right amount of detail to get one interested in various aspects to follow-up . . . and, of course, you always provide the links for us to dip into at our leisure - SO useful!

  2. Good post thanks for sharing