We had a warm welcome from Mark McCourt. Again he encouraged us to share what everything we would see and hear, but to also question everything! He explained how speakers with opposing views were always present to encourage discussion, thinking and debate.
Andrew Taylor spoke to us about the great work that AQA continue to do to support MathsConf and teachers generally all over the country. He said, “The purpose of assessment is to validate the curriculum and support all the work you do in the classroom“ and reiterated the importance of events like this to further support the curriculum. Andrew, too, encouraged us to listen and learn from everyone in the room. He loves these events as he can see what’s happening in maths classrooms across the country. There was lots of praise for the AQA maths expert panel and the work that they do. We were reminded to buy lots of raffle tickets and “strange sugary things” from Rob, with all money going to McMillan Cancer Support.
One of my favourite parts of a MathsConf is speed dating! I shared my A Level rich tasks and got to meet some brilliant people with fantastic ideas in return. Dave Wilson (@dlwilson_maths) spoke to me about their whole-school maths across curriculum initiative with solid branding and a logo designed by the students. I got to catch up with Jemma Sherwood in person and thank her for her support with implementing exit tickets as part of our new feedback policy. She shared how she includes a history of maths to give more context and background in her teaching, such as history of our number system. Rachel shared these squares of differences to aid subtraction practice. She showed me how you can apply it algebra and even Tribonacci sequences! Miss Blencowe shared how she’s started using low stakes tests in her PGCE year and the positive impact they’re having on her teaching.
Mark shared his resources after this: the Complete Maths Times Tables app. It offers times tables quizzes of varying length and include basic questions, using arrays and times tables grids. He’s only recently (last night rather than going to bed!) created a variation grid, which is great for spotting patterns.
My first workshop was with Pete Mattock on averages.
Pete’s response to this rhyme: “I don’t even know what to say about that...!” He explained that it removes all thought. He then questioned the wording that we associate with averages and the overlap with other areas of maths, such as medians in geometry. Pete spoke about how the mean is a ‘levelling out’ process and how it represents the ‘total shared’. Duda Math shows this beautifully with this graphic and it’s free to use.
Pete questioned the word ‘average’ too. Should we use the phrase ‘measures of central tendancy’ with all students instead? Should we even use the names mode, median and mean? He suggested introducing them as what they are rather than their names – which value occurs most often! What’s the middle value when they’re put in order? What’s the typical value when the total is shared? Which average is most suitable? Does it depend on the context?
We talked about how practice questions are just a process, and potentially pointless without context. Pete showed up a list of colours and asked us to find the mode… which was useless until we knew they were eye colours. Definitely lots to think about here!
I led my workshop on scaffolding after this. The slides are here if you couldn’t make it.
Lunchtime meant the Tweet-Up! I made a cube with Julia Smith (somehow did this one straight away yet couldn’t do it again later!) and Dani Quinn showed me how to use geoboards. I was particularly excited about these and I’m going to buy my own to use next time I do circle theorems and triangles with my classes.
Jemma Sherwood’s workshop was next. I always look forward to listening to Jemma and I wasn’t disappointed. She spoke about her curriculum model and the work she’s been doing with the Learning Scientists on the six strategies for effective learning.
Spaced practice: a little every day is more effective than a lot in one go. For example, 10 minutes of revision every day rather than cramming the week before exams. Jemma mentioned Numeracy Ninjas and the MathsBox skills checks. The three part lesson could be detrimental - what if we need an hour and a half on something?
Interleaving: creates a desirable difficulty- switching between things creates more work and causes you to learn more. Mixing up the topics your students study also necessitates spacing. It’s easy to do if you review old content as new content is taught, for example include decimals with order of operations.
Retrieval practice: forcing yourself to remember something that you’re starting to forget. Low stakes quizzing is a sure-fire way to meet this one, but there has to be no pressure. Students need to be aware that it’s not a test, it’s a chance to remember something. Ten Quick Questions and Mathsbot quizzes mean you don’t have to do much work either.
Elaboration: thinking about things in as much depth as you can. Deep level learning sticks so make mathematical links wherever you can. Mathematical vocabulary is also vital.
Concrete examples: this is easy for maths as it’s hard to explain without an example. Choosing examples carefully can ensure maximum impact. Include variation and make a slight change each time.
Dual coding: presenting visuals with words. When material is presented in two formats simultaneously, you’re more likely to remember it as you have more ways to remember it. Gradually remove text from diagrams to increase independence of students.
Julia Smith’s workshop on the wonderful world of revision got us discussing what we thought revision was. We all came up with similar words: reviewing, revisiting, checking you haven’t forgotten something. Julia reiterated that the best way is to revise maths is to do lots of maths. She showed us the Just Maths revision calendars and Mr Chadburn’s resources, along with the Corbett Maths 5-a-day.
I’m going to create a Padlet for my students this week. Julia advised us to create a positive maths culture in our classrooms and made links to Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve. She explained how year 11 is about success and that any valid mathematical method is acceptable. Julia showed us the Marigolds of Multiplication which I’m hoping will be a game-changer for my year 11s that have always struggled with their timestables.
We don’t spend enough time on actual exam technique and Julia advised us to teach these skills explicitly, such as how to use a calculator, compasses and protractors. She told us about Steve Blades’ 30 second challenges, where students need to spot whether the question is right or wrong. I really liked the idea of double marking mock papers - mark once normally, then mark them again and give the “numpty marks”. She said their marks will often increase by about 10 – it’s a great way to increase their awareness of silly mistakes.
During the closing remarks, prizes were given for the raffle, treasure hunt and cake competition. The delegates have raised another £1300 for McMillan Cancer support so Mark is going to write them a huge cheque for £3000. A whip-round had also been done for Jonny Hall’s website, MathsBot, which continues to run for free.
Another brilliant day of CPD. Thank you so much Mark McCourt and the La Salle Education for the work you do to inspire maths teachers all over the country. We’re lucky to have you!
See you at MathsConf15 in Manchester on 23rd June.