MathsConf15: 6 Takeaways

OK, so yesterday it was MathsConf 15. I’ve got loads of takeaways.

  1. The first session I went to was Jo Morgan’s session on indices. It was phenomenal. Jo puts a lot of work and research into her sessions and it really shows. If you ever get to see her do an ‘In Depth’ presentation, do.
    The crux of the presentation was this: Jo used to cover the 3 main indices rules in one lesson. In fact, so did I! I even have a resource on it on TES! What jo, showed, though, is that by doing this we’re denying students the ability to go properly in depth with the topic and gain a proper understanding. For a start, I’ve been getting the language wrong.

    The ENTIRE thing is the power. The little number is the index.
    We also refer to power in so many different ways that it can be confusing for children
    There’s also loads of subtitles in even the multiplication index law. Maybe by going too fast we’re missing talking about a lot of subtleties that could trip pupils up. (Hat tip to Ben Gordon for these pictures, btw)

    There’s also a lot of practice we can do. Just because we don’t want to talk about what negative and fraction indices are yet, doesn’t mean we can’t have fractional and negative indices in our answers. It makes them less scary and special when encountered later. We can also start using this as an excuse to practice negative number work, or fractions work or algebra work. Hey, why not ask questions like this:

    As you can see, there was loads of content in this talk. But there were a few things I will take into my teaching straight away:
    Atomise. Don’t try an do too much at once.
    Instead of moving on, go deeper
    Don’t miss chances to practise negative numbers at every opportunity.
  2. Next I went to Peter Mattock’s measuring session. Measuring seems so simple, but there’s so much in there. My 1/U borderline year 11 this year really struggled with a question where a pylon was 11.5 x the height of a man. They couldn’t see how you could have half a man. The multiplicative reasoning of measures hadn’t been embedded. Once more, we need to think more deeply about what we do.
  3. I then went to a session PRESENTED BY ME! I’ve never done a session before at something like this, and I was really nervous. I even wore a full suit as a kind of ‘suit of armour’ to protect the nerves. I got even more nervous when I got there and MR BARTON WAS IN MY SESSION. Mr Barton is a maths legend. It’s because of his ‘resource of the week’ that I first started sharing my resources. I wanted to be resource of the week. And I was eventually! It was such a buzz. I can’t be the only one that started sharing my resources because of him. Add to that the impact his book has made and his impact in maths teaching in the UK is incalculable.
    My session went OK. It was on GapMinder. But the best thing about it was the amount of people who came up to me afterwards to share ideas or resources and the amount of people who pointed me to great stuff on Twitter. Some people got in contact to disagree, which I loved. I don’t want to be right, I want to have a conversation.
    If you’re in two minds about doing a session at MathsConf, do. You get so much out of it.
    If that wasn’t enough, I was mentioned on the Mr Barton Maths Podcast! This is genuinely the proudest moment of my professional career. I am still beaming.
  4. Fourth was Mr Barton, Jess (I’m sorry I didn’t catch her last name, which makes me feel bad) and Ben Gordon’s session on variation. It was flipping brilliant. They talked about making student’s think more deeply about the structure of what they’re being asked. Anyone who has read this blog recently knows it’s something I’m into at the moment. And they launched a new website variationtheory.com with loads of variation exercises and stuff. It is, obviously, brilliant.
  5. This last takeaway is something I really debated putting down. But as much as I enjoyed the day, I also found it really hard. I am generally a very socially anxious person, especially in crowds. MathsConf was very crowded. I found the ‘networking’ sections really, really difficult. Mingling with strangers. It’s something that I’ve always found hard, although teaching has certainly helped me improve in this area. You always worry that you’re either boring people, or attaching yourself onto people like a limpet. I also repeat myself a lot when I do this. I can also sometimes be a ‘bit much’. If I did this to you, I apologise.
    However, if you’re someone who is socially anxious, I would still recommend going (maybe bring a friend? Having a friend there has helped me). The people at MathsConf have always been very friendly, and put up with me brilliantly. I would like to thank Jo Morgan and Peter Mattock in particular for both always finding time to talk to me and being really friendly. In fact, everyone at mathsconf is always been friendly. I’ve not had one negative encounter. It’s worth the anxiety.
  6. Follow Paul Rodrigo on Twitter. He’s a good egg.

Richard