Saturday, 25 June 2016

#Mathsconf7 - a cracking day out

I don't normally write blogs about conferences and events; there are much more eloquent people out there who normally do a great job of highlighting the key parts of the sessions they visit. Unfortunately quite a few of them were unable to attend this weekend and so the task falls to me to sum up my experiences of this wonderful weekend.

Friday night - the pre-drinks were great fun. Myself and Andy (@ColonelPrice) had a lovely dinner at the Cattle Grid (heartily recommended for anyone visiting Leeds in the future) followed a great catch-up with Mark (@EMathsUK) and the LaSalle team, Ben and some of the AQA team, Graham Cummings and @deko_j from Pearson, @dannytbrown @KristopherBoulton and @Naveenfrizvi. I also got to meet Douglas Butler (@DouglasButler1) for the first time (having missed his apparently fantastic ATM/Ma session in Leicester recently) as well as the dangerous duo of @AnandaCatterall and @MissVaseyMaths. As things wound down at Azucar we set off to find @El_Timbre, @missradders and @jennypeek to continue the drinking - nights out in Leeds are fun, but no more will be said!

Start of the conference - Following the usual messages from Mark and Andrew Taylor we were treated to a fantastic key note from professor Mike Askew (@mikeaskew26 which really highlighted some of the ways of working with pupils that actually do have impact in terms of pupils solving problems. In particular the importance of asking deep, exploratory questions like the one below. 

Another important point raised here was the relative effectiveness of front-loading the lesson with examples and then pupils practising on lots of examples with a much more interleaved approach mixing worked examples with independent practice. The research Mike quoted suggests this second approach created much better outcomes in pupils compared to what might be considered the more traditional approach. Although there is lots to mention from this session, the one other thing I really want to mention is the use of little low-stakes quizzes on prior topics done half way through a current topic in order to refresh previous knowledge and understanding.

Unfortunately due to technical difficulties I missed the speed-date but I am sure it was as useful and exciting as always.

Session 1 - Avoiding misleading assumptions

This was my first delivery of the day looking at the sometimes rather limited diet of examples that maths teachers have seen in the past, and therefore pupils see now. We played a game that tested the delegates creativity around designing examples. The full presentation can be found here and the major points of the game can be seen below:

Session 2 - Questioning and Culture.

My second delivery, along with @ColonelPrice making his #mathsconf debut. The session again seemed to be well received as myself and Andrew explored different aspects of questioning, including some brilliant responses to the request to come up with some non-standard questions to this stimulus (the idea of finding the equations of the lines given that the vertex at the bottom left has coordinate (0,0) was particularly inspired!). 

Again the presentation can be found here.

Lunch and the Tweet up - After less than inspiring fair in Peterborough we were treated to a very nice hot and cold selection for lunch. Of course no tweet up was ever going to be the same without @tessmaths there but our team of @MrBenWard, @HR_Maths @MissBLilley, @ColonelPrice, @missradders, @El_Timbre, @EJMaths and @MissBsresources really mucked in, and a great time was had by all! The puzzles proved particularly popular (with MissBLilley in particular more so then the delegates!) and congratulations to @hexagon001 for winning the triangles competition (with thanks to @EJMaths for donating the book used as the prize) and also to @KerryDunton for winning the smallest unique positive integer competition with a great choice of 6.

Session 3 - Golden Age

I always love talking about practice with @dannytbrown, I am only sad that I don't get the opportunity to do so very often. Listening to Danny talk about being present, being aware of our own awareness and noticing what leads to our actions before they happen, drawing on the work of Mason, Tahta etc, was hypnotic and Danny's clear passion but very deliberate approach is the perfect vehicle for delegates to slow down and really think about themselves in the classroom. This is possibly the only session I have not tweeted from as it was impossible to truly listen to Danny and distract yourself with a device at the same time, and would have been the antithesis of the whole session. Danny is clearly one of the deeper thinkers of our profession and everybody should take the time to listen to his thoughts and engage with the material he puts out in his excellent blog.

Session 4 - Teaching for Depth

The lovely ladies of the White Rose Maths hub (@wrmathshub) led by Beth talked about some of the work they have been doing to try and really ensure that the pupils across their area develop a really deep understanding of maths. Drawing on inspiration from Shanghai around ensuring pupils access truly intelligent practice and work with multiple representations the team have put together some excellent resources and assessments linked into their scheme of work. I will definitely be paying regular visits to their dropbox when I am doing my own KS3 re-write next year and stealing as many of their materials as I can get away with!

Of course one of the best parts of any #mathsconf is the chance to catch up with old friends and puts faces to the names of new ones and this was no exception - most of the names I have already mentioned and if I try and create a list here I will guarantee to miss someone out so I will simply say if I spoke to you today it was great to meet you/see you again and if I didn't then make sure you say "Hi" next time (particularly you @MrBartonMaths as I have seen you twice at mathsconf and haven't talked maths properly with you yet!).

I cannot lavish enough plaudits on @EmathsUK and the @LaSalleEd team for the fantastic work they do three times a year to bring these events together and having started at #mathsconf4 I hope I am still around when they are doing #mathsconf40!