7 April 2018

BCME 9 Reflections

I spent the last four days at BCME 9 at the University of Warwick. It was brilliant. The British Congress of Mathematics Education only takes place once every four years. This was my first BCME. In fact, it was my first residential Easter conference, so this was a really big deal for me! I am extremely grateful to my husband (who took a week off work to look after our daughters), and to the bursary committee of BCME (who awarded me a bursary so that I could afford to attend), and to the conference organisers (who did an incredible job of organising a huge conference with hundreds of speakers). It was a fantastic opportunity for learning, networking and socialising. I'm utterly exhausted now but luckily I have one more week of the Easter holidays in which to recover! In this post I'll share five of my conference highlights.

1. The Podcasts
Craig Barton and I recorded four podcasts over the course of the conference. We've had some lovely feedback. I'm so glad people find these podcasts useful and entertaining.

BCME Day 1 - Craig and I discuss probability, variation, how I changed my teaching over the last four years, and how the flipping heck you say BCME. (49 minutes)

BCME Day 2 - Craig and I discuss challenging GCSE topics, QLAs, a history of problem solving, manipulatives, pop-up maths, stretching the most able, why exams don't tell you everything, and the prospects of our quiz team. (1 hour 3 minutes)

BCME Day 3 - Craig and I discuss the difficulty of teaching primary maths, the difficulty of teaching A Level, and the difficulty of securing a seat near to Hannah Fry at the Conference Dinner. (1 hour 13 minutes)

BCME Day 4 - Craig and I talk about arithmetic strategies, aha moments, tricky GCSE questions and teaching low-attaining students. (44 minutes)

Thank you to Craig for inviting me to co-host these podcasts. I really enjoyed it.

2. The Evening Entertainment
The line up of evening entertainment at BCME 9 couldn't have been more perfect. The first night was a taste of MathsJam - we did puzzles, played games and enjoyed card tricks performed by Andrew Jeffrey. On the second night there was a brilliant quiz, which (unbelievably) my team won! I'm pretty sure this was the highlight of the conference for all members of my quiz team (shout out to Ed, Megan, Karen, Craig and Andrew). We had so much fun! Though the American Pie singalong was totally surreal. On the third night I went to the Conference Dinner where I hung out with my hero Hannah Fry. #starstruck

I met loads of lovely people throughout the conference and also enjoyed having so much quality time with good friends.

3. Pop Up Maths
I got a lot out of every session I went to and if you listen to the podcasts you will hear me discuss each session in detail. My favourite session of the conference was run by David Sharp of Spaghetti Maths. My friends Megan and Ed made a last minute decision to join me, and we ended up having loads of fun (not only making mathsy stuff out of paper, but also downloading the Boomerang app and playing with it for the first time!).
Spaghetti Maths are keen to hear from people who want to get involved in running their sessions in primary schools. I love what they do and I hope their business grows so that more children can benefit from the enrichment they offer.
By the way, if you're not familiar with flexahexagons then do watch Vi Hart's fantastic videos about them. They are awesome.

4. Markit.Education
I went to a session by Nikki Gupta in which she talked about problem solving and misconceptions at A level. I really like her website markit.education and have blogged about it a couple of times before. It's full of great A level questions that I've recently started to use in my lessons.

I'm really keen for A level teachers to have a look at the 'step-by-step' functionality on this website. It's very clever - it's a bit like a student receiving guidance from a one-on-one tutor.

I've tried to capture the process in this gif but it's better if you try it yourself. There's an online demo that you can have a go at without logging in.

Register on the website to access all the questions. You can set around three hours worth of A level homeworks for free once you've registered, and then it's £15 per student if you'd like to set more work. I think it might be worth subscribing in September and using this for all A level homeworks next year. It's high quality stuff and would really cut down on my marking workload (A level is where I do all my homework marking). Something to think about...

5. My Presentation
Thank you to everyone who came to my session on "Ideas that transformed my teaching". What a lovely group of people! I promised that I'd share my slides, so here they are:

PowerPoint: Ideas that Transformed my Teaching

The slides won't make a huge amount of sense without my commentary but if you listen to BCME Podcast Day 1 you'll hear me explain some of what I covered here.

In my session I talked about joining Twitter four years ago - at the time I was feeling pretty uninspired and bored by maths teaching. Twitter provided so much inspiration and enthusiasm that since then I have absolutely loved being a maths teacher and am now constantly developing my teaching practice and reflecting on what I do. I looked ahead to BCME 2022 and talked about what I might change between now and then.

I'd like to end this post by thanking a few people for an absolutely fantastic conference: the organisers of BCME; my friends at The Mathematical Association; the speakers who generously put so much time and effort into preparing and delivering their sessions; and my conference buddies Ed, Craig, Megan and Andrew. I really hope I can attend the joint MA/ATM conference next Easter and do it all again.


  1. Thanks Jo for the write up and the 4 podcats and your excellent powerpoint which DOES indeed make a huge amount of sense even without your commentary ... chuffed to see my quadratic sequences method represented here ... whenever I see a sequence like this (with integer values) in a book or the SAMs or on t'Internet I challenge myself to correctly do it in my head using this method without writing anything down and believe I can find a & b & c in under 10 seconds ... I bet you have pupils in your Year 11 who can do it in half that time once they've mastered the technique and understand the algebraic reasoning behind this swift approach ... which I suppose you expose them to ... or better still get them to derive from first principles? Matt

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