It has been a while since I have blogged! I’ve had lots and lots of ideas for things to write about, but have been struggling to put the words in this little box. However, if something was going to inspire me, it was attending another MathsConf!
I made the last minute decision to grab a ticket when a few spares were announced a couple of weeks ago – @MrsMathematica and I decided that it would be the perfect time to catch up too and so a plan was made. I’ve had to miss the last few when I had tickets due to illness so I was very excited to go again – I think my last one was MathsConf7!
The first exciting part of the day was getting there to this badge:For those who haven’t seen my recent tweet – I have just been appointed as Deputy Faculty Leader in Maths! Now I have been a little cheeky here, technically speaking I’ve not started this job yet, but this is the first time I have been able to put it on a snazzy badge so I jumped at the chance – all the ideas will be primarily used in the new school…. so @MrsMathematica and I decided it was totally OK to do it in advance!
I started the day in Naveen Rizvi‘s session on her work using Englemann’s Connecting Maths Concepts Textbooks. In this session Naveen showed us how Englemann developed scripted lessons to ensure that “future learning never contradicts prior learning”. This involves careful sequencing of lessons in the topic and careful selection of examples. I was struck by the use of ‘more than one whole’ in the introduction to the topic – the use of these representations has come much later in my own lessons, but I will be re-evaluating this in future!
Though I am not sold on the idea of a scripted lesson, some of the underlying themes in Naveen’s session really stuck with me:
- Sequencing your lessons to avoid a contradiction in future lessons
- Consistent use of language throughout a topic
- Breaking down the topic into explicit, sometimes very small, skills
- Do not assume number sense – things that are implicit to us as teachers are not implicit to children, such as understanding what happens when we multiply by a number less than 1.
- The use of examples and non-examples to build up a definition (Defining “integer” or “not an integer” as a skill before mixed numbers to avoid cognitive overload particularly blew my mind!)
- The link between written maths and spoken maths – e.g. the implicit ‘+’ in mixed numbers or a whole being an object split into ‘one part’ may not be obvious to students!
It has certainly given me a lot of food for thought about the things we ASSUME children will understand, and how to be more explicit in my instruction.
This session flowed nicely into Memorable Learning with Dani Quinn and Hinal Bhudia where there were many common themes. I’ve taken away lots of ideas about the different aspects of maths that we need students to remember, and how to make that happen – we got a lovely handout with some ideas of how to help students get this information ‘in, out and shake it all about’.
- “It’s really important with facts that if they get it wrong you don’t say ‘oh that’s close’” – for example if a student sees an octagon and says ‘a hexagon’, they need to be kindly corrected because a hexagon is not an octagon… a hexagon is NOT close!
- Knowledge organizers – how best to make and use them – I will be looking into this a LOT more.
- “Don’t attempt to teach an AO3 question without having taught all the concepts involved before.” So key but easy to forget… How can a student choose a path without knowing what they are?
- Something I plan to check myself on every time I plan and teach now:
After this session I popped to the Tuck Shop run by Rob Smith, where he’d stocked my absolute favourites and made my day EVEN BETTER. Then I had a delightful lunch at the #TweetUp, where I caught up with @MissRadders finally plucked up the courage to speak to @tessmaths (who gave me a ‘money can’t buy’ TessMaths tea towel!) and @mrsdeyner, and had a lovely chat with fellow #loveteaching enthusiast @MissBLilley! I felt like an absolute champion for being able to complete the plait puzzle posed by @letsgetmathing:
Through the day I also had the pleasure of meeting/catching up with
@DrBennison @mathsmrgordon @missmaths26 @MrsMandMaths @jemmaths @BoogleChops @CantabKitty @AMercerMaths and so many more! You’re all absolute stars and I adore you!
Session 3 took me to Effective Learning Strategies with Jemma Sherwood which to be honest could be an entire blog post in itself. Many of the themes from earlier sessions were continued in this one, but one big point was curriculum sequencing – “Number underpins everything else!” Getting these fundamental number skills cemented in Year 7 is key for Jemma, and I can totally see why!
- The importance and inter-connectivity of spaced practice, interleaving and retrieval practice. This is something I want to look into a lot more over the summer and come up with a plan for how to further incorporate this into my practice next year.
- “Sweat the small stuff” – including the use of mathematical language by students. I am big on this anyway but this has renewed my enthusiasm!
- Desirable difficulties in examples – “Just difficult enough, but not too difficult.”
- Dual coding and adapting resources to allow for this e.g.:
I managed to bag myself a place in Craig Barton‘s How I Wish I’d Taught Maths for the final session. I will confess that as yet I have not managed to finish the actual book! But this session actually just inspired me to get on it immediately. My CPD promise postcard predominantly was a promise to try some of the techniques shared ASAP, these were:
- Example problem pairs – I use the silent example from time to time after hearing it on the podcast already, but this set up looks fantastic and I really can’t wait to embed it as routine in my classroom.
I also particularly liked this bit as Craig was very theatrical with his pauses, and his ‘thinking face’ matched the emoji version perfectly…
- I need a visualiser STAT – Show-Call is something I do now, but without the effective power of supersizing the work onto the board!
- Intelligent Practice – “…useful as it allows students to form expectations of the answers. Two possible outcomes: It is realised – brilliant, confidence booster! It’s not – brilliant! Cognitive shock… you retain this as against your expectation.”
I try hard to create these kind of AfL questions already, but this session has given me so many ideas on how I could do it better!
- Get on mathsvenns.com ASAP
- Get on SSDDproblems.com ASAP
The last site in particular is going to be revolutionary – even as an RQT, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve gone through a mock paper with a class and said something like “So this was a trigonometry question…” and every single student has gone “ooooooooh” as the penny dropped that it was that skill I was looking for! This is going to help to create much better problem solvers and critical thinkers in the maths classroom. I am excited to use and contribute to it!
I adore MathsConf. I loved my first one, have been gutted I’ve missed the ones between, and loved yesterday once again. Being in a room full of people that love maths and love teaching as much as I do makes me so immeasurably happy. Gathering new ideas for how to teach maths from those people makes me even happier. Thank you La Salle and Mark McCourt for creating an environment for us to do this – I am eternally grateful!
I cannot wait for #MathsConf15!