25 June 2017


Yesterday I attended #mathsconf10 in sunny Essex. I'm very grateful to Mark McCourt and La Salle Education for another fantastic day of maths CPD and networking.

I started the day by meeting up with Lisa Winer, a math teacher from Florida who is visiting Europe for a couple of weeks. She's written a blog post about her trip here. We travelled from Central London to Essex by train and had plenty of time to check out the exhibition before the conference started. The format of the day was slightly different to previous conferences - because there were so many workshops, there was an additional session added to the programme and no keynote at the start. This worked well - it was good to be able to choose five workshops, though choices were as difficult as ever.

In the first session I presented my 'Angles in Depth' workshop. This is the first in a new series of workshops where I look at a topic in depth (misconceptions, explanations, resources etc). I feel quite strongly that this is something that maths teachers need, though I think it will take me a while to convince people of this! I blogged about it here.
Apart from the uncomfortably hot room and the glare on the screen, I think my session went well. I focused specifically on two angle facts - adjacent angles on straight lines and angles in a triangle. After my workshop, lots of members of the audience told me stories of their experience teaching angles - the misconceptions they'd seen and the approaches they'd used - which was brilliant.

Lots of people at the conference requested that I share my session online. It makes a lot more sense if you actually hear me talk through it, but here you go:

Links and sources are in the notes at the bottom of each slide.

Once I've made a few more of these I'll put them on a separate page so they're all in one place.

The idea is that these slide packs are shared with trainee teachers the first time they teach these topics. My next session, at Sheffield in September, will focus on angles in parallel lines.

After my session Charlie Dawson showed me a brilliant manipulative which is really simple to make:

In the second session I attended Mark McCourt's workshop on the history of maths education. I did a lot of research on this earlier in the year because I ran a session on it for my SCITT trainees, but I felt that I had some gaps in my knowledge so it was worth attending Mark's session to find out more. As expected, this was a really interesting session. It's fascinating that maths education keeps swinging from progressive to traditional and back again.

I then went to Andrew Taylor's session where he talked about his personal history of problem solving. He shared some lovely Malcolm Swan problems, including Skeleton Tower from the blue box.
When he shared the marking guides for the old maths GCSE coursework it made me very happy that I became a teacher after coursework was removed from GCSE. Tilly's tweet about this really made me laugh:

Andrew spoke about the reasons that coursework was discontinued and how exams now try to test problem solving skills, though of course we know that conducting mathematical investigations under time conditions is not ideal.

During this workshop a lot of people attended the lovely Jemma Sherwood's session on feedback and came out saying that they were going to start using exit tickets and wanted to know where to find some. I think exit tickets are a great idea - I don't use them but some of my colleagues do. I blogged about them last year here and included some links to exit ticket resources (though, arguably, an exit ticket should only take a few minutes to create so teachers may be better off making their own tailored exit tickets instead of using pre-made ones).

At lunch I popped along to the tweet-up and tried (unsuccessfully!) to make a cobra weave stick bomb with Lucy Rycroft-Smith.

After lunch I attended Rachel Horsman's session 'Geometrical Gems'. This was a lovely session full of practical activities. My favourite part was the Area Game, which I played with Martin Noon. The idea is to take it in turns to draw lines inside a rectangle to form triangles. When you form a triangle you claim it by colouring or labelling it. Each line you draw must start where the previous line finished and has to meet the other side of the rectangle. The person with the biggest total area at the end wins.
It's obvious now, but whatever you do you'll end up with a draw - because you'll both have the length of the rectangle as your total base, and all the triangles have the same height. Clever!

In the final session Dani and Rose headlined with a workshop on workload. I didn't go to this session because I feel that my workload is as under control as it can be. Most of the big drains on my workload (UCAS references, mock marking etc) are unavoidable. A lot of the tweets mentioned quizzes, which I've been using for a couple of years now and absolutely love. Regular low stakes quizzes are one of the best changes to my practice that I've made in recent years and I cannot recommend them enough (I blogged about it here). A level marking and feedback for a giant class of 28 is the main thing that's caused me ongoing workload issues this year - I'm not convinced that quizzes are a suitable alternative at A level, but I suppose it's worth considering.

Instead I went to Peter Mattock's session 'Opportunities for Reasoning' in which he shared lots of interesting activities and resources, including this from the Standards Unit which requires students to explain what's happening in each step:
He also shared his lovely fractions activity which you can download here.

I stayed for a couple of drinks after the conference and had a lovely chat with fellow maths teachers. Overall it was a great day and I look forward to the Sheffield conference in September.

In case you're interested, my previous maths conference blog posts can be found here:
#mathsconf9 (March 2017)
#mathsconf8 (September 2016)
#mathsconf6 (March 2016)
#mathsconf5 (September 2015)
#mathsconf4 (June 2015)
#mathsconf2015 (March 2015)
Gems 8 (September 2014)

I'm going to the JustMaths Conference on Tuesday (two maths conferences in four days!) - if you're going, see you there.