Maths Conference 2014
Yesterday I attended the Maths teachers conference in Kettering. Here I intend to share some thoughts on the day, and on the workshops I attended. I won’t go into too much depth, and will come bacTo k to these topics in later posts.
The event was hosted by Mark McCourt (@EmathsUK) of La Salle Education (@LaSalleEd) which, to my disappointment, has nothing to do with Dr Benton from ER. The event was in Kettering, and due to an overestimate of my travelling time I arrived an hour before the start. Luckily I wasn’t the only one, and found some similarly early maths teachers to chat with.
The event started with coffee, pastries and an exhibition of stalls from examboards, book suppliers and other such folk. This was another nice opportunity to chat and to learn more about the specs for the new GCSE. It was then off to the theatre where Mark give an intro to the day, and then Andrew Taylor from main sponsor AQA (@AQA) give a short speech to kick us off. It set the tone well and had us all ready for the first main headliner.
Vanessa Pittard (@vanessapittard) – Department of Education
Vanessa gave a great overview of the current changes in maths education policy, and the rationale behind it. She touched on many topics that would be met again throughout the day, such as the importance of mastery and curriculum design. She gave me many starting points from which I hope to learn more and gave me a better understanding of the China/England maths exchange which seems to have been majorly misreported by the press. She spoke about the Maths curricula in the highest performing countries, and something that surprised me was to hear that pupils progress through at the same pace, regardless of ability. She neglected to include the status than in high performing countries teacher spend 30% of their time teacher, with the rest spent planning, preparing and assessing as well as working on improving their practice. Compared to the UK, where it’s 90%.
Mark McCourt – A maths teacher’s network
Next it was our host, setting out his utopian vision for a better world for all maths teachers. This vision is encompassed in his new product “Complete Maths”. It’s an online resource that aims to help with lesson planning and sharing resources. It’s a big idea. It allows a personalised curriculum and the part of it that builds assessments looks particularly interesting, but I have my concerns. Mark said that when you upload a resource it goes to the design team who vamp it up and publish it with your name on it, that worries me. What if I don’t like the way they make it look, or if they make a mistake on it, and then there’s a resource with my name on it that I’m not happy with. Also, if every maths teacher in the world does get on this programme, can you imagine how many resources would be available for each lesson? It would take forever to wade through them to find the good stuff. It’s a product that has masses of potential, but it also has a massive price tag and it currently unproven. I shall look forward to hearing reviews of it once it’s been up and running a while, to see which way it goes.
Mel and Seater from Just Maths (@Just_Maths)- KS4 intervention.
This was the first of the workshops I picked. Like all the choices it was tough, and I had to miss out on seeing a lot of people throughout the day who I would have loved to see. I chose this one because I feel that it could benefit my pupils.
Mel and Seager form the perfect double act, they’ve worked together for a long time, and they bounce of each other superbly, it was a thoroughly entertaining presentation. They spoke about the intervention policies they’d put in place in their previous school, and what they’re doing now. Some of the things they do, we do, but some were ideas I’d not heard, so will feedback to my department and discuss whether we can get any benefit from them. I was particularly interested by the one to one tuition they were offering, and the strategic take on early identification of those in need of support.
They also highlighted some of the resources on their website. Some I knew about, and some I didn’t, so I left the workshop with plenty of new info to work with. I am especially excited by oops sheets, and the bread and butter sheets.
I won’t lie, my decision to choose this workshop may have had more to do with my childhood memories, than a belief I would gain much out of it. And to be fair, that’s what I got. A charismatic entertainer who made me laugh and told me some interesting facts about maths, some I already knew, and some I didn’t.
Bruno Reddy (@MrReddyMaths) – The King Solomon Story
I have been following the fortunes of Bruno and his colleagues at KSA for a while now, and was excited to learn more about the school who hit 93% 5 A*-C including English and Maths with 75% of the intake Pupil Premium.
Bruno presented very well, I learned a lot about KSA and their strategies, that he calls the 1% things. The principal ones being that culture is king and consistency is queen. I think there are a few things I can take away from this session and a few that are common sense, but there was also a lot that may work in a 60 pupil intake where pupils are in lessons from 7:15-4:30 everyday, but logistically couldn’t be transferred to a larger school with a more normal school day. There were also things I don’t think I could buy into, such as the finger clicking and chanting! The latter of which has a real cultish feel to it.
He briefly touched on the mastery curriculum that they use in maths, which is something I’m extremely interested in. I’ve been advocating mastery for a while, and the results from KSA suggest that that advocacy may well be correct.
Kris Boulton (@Kris_Boulton) – Curriculum Design
Kris is one of Bruno’s (now former) colleagues at KSA and he spoke in much more depth on the mastery curriculum that they have pioneered there.
For me, this was the session I most enjoyed and found most interesting. He delved into the theory behind mastery well and used it to explain why they had decided to back it at KSA. This was intriguing, and I hope to look further into the studies he mentioned myself.
He also gave an overview of the curriculum itself, which helped me understand what it is in more depth. It’s incredibly simply, but makes a ton of sense. Cover less topics in more depth, separate minimally different concepts and build in opportunites to practice and embed knowledge.
I enjoyed each session, and enjoyed the day immensely. I have written this from memory, and without notes. I have made notes and I will, at some point in the future, be reading through them and looking deeper into each parts. When I do, I will share more on this blog.
It was great to meet so many new people at the conference too. Some who I’d already spoken to on twitter, and some entirely new. Unfortunately, there were some I didn’t get to meet, so maybe next time. If you went, and have written your reflections, please let me have a link, I’d love to hear what others thoughts are on these issues, and to hear in detail about the workshops I didn’t manage to attend.