26 June 2018

Conference Round Trip

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to present at two excellent maths conferences over the last few days. On Saturday I was at La Salle’s #mathsconf15 in Manchester, and on Monday I was at the JustMaths conference at Alton Towers. I did a three night round trip, travelling by train with a huge backpack.

I used to publish very detailed write ups of every maths conference I attended - in fact I used to be one of the only people who did so. But now there are loads of teachers blogging about conferences. This is fantastic! I love seeing so much enthusiasm for maths teaching. So I won’t go into great detail about the conferences in this post - not because I didn’t have a great time and learn a lot, but just because you can read far better write ups elsewhere.

If you do want to hear my personal reflections in more detail, I recommend you listen to the two conference takeaway podcasts that I've recorded with Craig Barton. The #mathsconf15 podcast is already out, and the JustMaths podcast will be out next week.
At #mathsconf15 I presented on Indices in Depth. This presentation took me months to pull together! I've shared the slides here, but bear in mind they make a lot more sense when I talk through them:

Do have a go at the problems in the handout if you have a few minutes. Delegates showed me multiple approaches to the final question.

The idea behind my slides is that you can present them yourself at school when your department is about to teach indices. Links and sources are in the notes at the bottom of each slide.

I hope to follow this up with a presentation on fractional and negative indices at a future conference. My full collection of 'topics in depth' packs (which is growing very very slowly) is available here.

If you'd like to read about the key points from my workshop then check out the conference write-ups from these lovely bloggers: Jess Prior, Atul Rana, Danielle Moosajee, Ed Watson, Richard Tock and Rachel Mahoney.

In response to a tweet about my workshop, Susan Russo (@Dsrussosusan) replied with a brilliant powers resource from YummyMath that I'd not seen before:
I love this. I've added it to my number resource library.

At the Tweet Up I did some filming for my 'Pronunciation Project'. Thank you to everyone who agreed to be filmed - such helpful people! Sorry about the parallelepiped...! I'll share the final video soon. I just need to work out how to edit it in the way I want it.
What I loved about talking to maths teachers about the way they say things is that I learnt some fascinating stuff. Esther (@MrsMathematica) teaches in Belfast and she told me that they say the word 'upon' to indicate there is a bracket present. So for example they say 4(x+2) as "4 upon x + 2". And they say (x+2)(x+3) as "x + 2 upon x +3" with distinct pauses in certain places to tell you it is double brackets. I had no idea! This is so interesting.

Watch out for my videos, coming soon!

JustMaths Conference
Like last year, the JustMaths Conference was wonderfully quirky and unique. The large audience of over 200 maths teachers stayed together all day instead of going to different workshops. There were presentations from the awarding bodies, Ofqual, me, Craig Barton, and the organisers Chris and Mel. I did a short session on resources, and was rather nervous given the size of the audience.

I absolutely loved the session Graham Cumming from Edexcel did at the end of the day - he talked us through some of the contextual questions from this year's GCSE exams and shared some hilarious student tweets.
After the conference we had some time in Alton Towers. I enjoyed a very pleasant ride on the rapids with David Faram, Craig Barton and other conference delegates. I overcame my fears and queued up for the new Wicker Man ride but it broke down because of the hot weather and we gave up in the end! I'll try that one again next year.
Laden down with my heavy backpack, I finally got home shortly after midnight on Monday night. I am exhausted. Teaching today was particularly hard work!

Thank you to all the conference organisers, and to everyone who presented. I got a lot out of both conferences. Also, thanks to everyone who kept me company over the weekend! It was great to catch up with so many lovely people. Special thanks to:
  • Megan Guinan for helping me out at the TweetUp where I took multitasking a step too far
  • Mariana Don Bosco for being such excellent company on the train to Manchester (Pythagorean triple proofs are my new favourite thing)
  • Tom Bennison for kindly filming my pronunciation videos
  • Rob Smith for running the MA stand and getting me a fabulous free t shirt from the guys at Texthelp
  • Craig Barton and David Faram for being my theme park buddies and forcing me to be brave!

I'm really looking forward doing a keynote at the BBO Maths Hub Secondary Conference next week. But until then, after my long weekend of conferences, I need a rest...!


  1. Jo! You are a star. I love your full-on enthusiasm and your wonderful attitude towards sharing that makes my life so so so much easier! You are the 'babe'! Trudi

    1. Aw, thank you! Very kind. Never been called a babe before! :)