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Peterborough Maths Teach Meet

I was really excited about my first maths TeachMeet that was very well organised by Sheena and Nicola! As I had hoped, I got loads of brilliant takeaways.

Mo Ladak presented the keynote speech and spoke about how once you’re a mentor for someone, you are always that person’s mentor! I definitely agree with this. Mo set us a challenge too: teach a lesson with only four things:

  • A planned outcome;

  • A pen;

  • Our subject knowledge; and

  • Our personality.

It’s very easy to become dependent on technology, and I’m aware that I’m probably not helping teachers with my website, but it’s so important to occasionally step back and teach from the heart. We’ve had several power cuts this year which has meant that there has been occasions when I’ve had no choice, but often these turn out to be brilliant discussion-focused lessons where students learn a lot. I’m going to take Mo up on his challenge and teach many more lessons that are tech- and resource-free.

Flavia spoke to us all about Seneca Learning, a website her students have been using for self-study and homework. It creates quizzes and tasks based on students’ previous answers and cognitive learning theory so it is a completely personalised experience. Topics are interleaved with each other. The recap of classwork means that students have a clear reminder of skills and technique before starting the questions. It is possible to draw up reports afterwards. I’m looking forward to exploring this in the next few days. There are a variety of subjects and exam boards available too.

Sheena spoke next about Desmos and how easy it is to use. She spoke about the advantages of students using it on their phone to investigate graphs, including their transformations. It is a brilliant checking tool. It’s very easy to create sliders unlike some other graphing software that is freely available.

Pree shared the use of dynamic QR codes. Now I love QR codes but I’d never thought of changing the page they lead to and leaving the QR code the same. Pree suggested having three QR codes glued to students’ books: one labelled red, one amber and one green, and changing the contents of the page they lead to for the appropriate lesson tasks. I found a great “how to” here, but also thought about uploading worksheets to a Google Site, which are also pretty easy to make, and having a separate web page for each class and each RAG sheet.

The downside to these last two ideas is that students are required to have some form of technology and my school has just banned the use of phones in classrooms.

Gordon demonstrated how we could introduce the concept of proof to KS3 students without any algebra using the Nrich tilted squares task. I think Dani Quinn’s geoboards that she brought to #mathsconf14’s Tweet Up would be perfect for this, but I still haven’t found any that are not terribly expensive. However, there are apps and websites that just about do the job! Students had to systematically create tilted squares and calculate their areas, hopefully spotting a relationship between the area and the height and length of the tilt. Eventually this led to Pythagoras’ Theorem and that the difference between squares will be an odd square at some point therefore creating Pythagorean triples. I’m looking forward to investigating this further with my year 9s towards the end of the year.

Jo discussed literacy in maths and threw loads of fantastic ideas at us in a very short space of time! I loved the square-on-a-pear type problems and there are lots available on TessMaths’ Padlet here. Anagrams are an easy one that lots of us probably use already. I really like the vowel-less tasks, there are lots by JustMaths here. Jo shared with us the many ways that Scrabble tiles can be used by students, from finding the value of their name to making a word where the mean of the values of the tiles is a given number. She also shared Frayer models which include examples, non-examples and characteristics. Students can either fill these in themselves or be given a completed one to guess the topic. 4 pics one word, a popular game of yesteryear, can be tweaked nicely to allow students to guess the topic – either give them the possible letters or not, then they can write the definition afterwards. Paul Collins has created several of these and they’re available here.

Craig Young shared his department’s strategy this year on choosing appropriate tiers for their students: they have combined higher and foundation questions into one mammoth paper and analysed students’ marks to determine if they would have got a better grade of higher or foundation, then entered them accordingly. Craig also drew our attention to AQA’s exam analysers which will save us all a job!

Nicola shared her fantastic experience of MEI's TAM course this year (I've done it too and it really is awesome). She specifically spoke about "doing and undoing" with differentiation and integration. This idea of reversing the process works with many maths topics including area of rectangle, expanding and factorising and simplifying surds, among others.

After all this hungry work, we were very lucky to have lots of pizza supplied by the lovely Mel from JustMaths and Mo, our brilliant key note speaker. Further generosity came in the form of raffle ticket prizes, including a year's subscription to Complete Maths from Mark McCourt.

This was a fantastic event and I'll definitely be attending the next one! Thank you so much to Sheena and Nicola for organising and to all the presenters.

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