My sixth mathsconf, so it’s about time I blogged about the fab day organised by @Emathsuk and his team at @lasalle.

As often as possible I try to start mathsconf with the Friday night meet up. It’s a great time to catch up with maths teachers we’ve met along the way and through Twitter, as well as meet new folks. Despite a mix up with Julia, @Tesmaths, trying to meet in the foyer of the hotel, then realising we were in different ones, I made it up to All Bar One with Jo, @jolocke1. We’d both started new schools in September, so lots to chat about. At the bar I was chatting with @rach_2210 who was in Sheffield on her first mathsconf, and through our “where about do you teach” introductions, discovered we lived in the same town a couple of miles apart, and Rachel teaches at the school my 10 year old has put down as his preferred choice! Small world! It was lovely to catch up with Jo, @mathsjem, and hear of her experience so far as head of maths.

So onto the mathsconf. After introductions from Mark and Andrew Taylor of AQA, who talked about post 16, it was over to Matt Parker, @standupmaths, who as you can imagine, was an instant hit. Not only was there lots of laughing out loud, but some neat maths too:

Choose a random 2 digit number, cube it and Matt will tell you the original number. It’s all to do with expanding a trinomial and the affect on the 10a and b when cubing. Going to have to explore this one a little more – but isn’t that the point – creating a hook to explore some maths.

Then Matt introduced us to his favourite spreadsheet. Just a spreadsheet with cells coloured in red, green or blue, but when you zoom out it’s a picture of Matt! Here’s mine, created from Matt’s pixel spreadsheet downloader on his excellent website think-maths.co.uk. Amongst other things there are downloads for building 3d fractals, including a festive fractal Christmas tree, and if you visit megamenger.com, you’ll find details on building the world’s largest menger sponge from business cards, along with all downloads and instructions.

Matt finished off with a round up of websites and events. I’m particularly hoping we’ll be able to take some year 11s to the mathsinspiration.com event in Birmingham in November. Fingers crossed!

During speed dating I met Jack from Nottingham Uni Samworth Academy who showed me the spreadsheet they had made to support strategies for rewarding positive behaviour and effort. It was just the thing to implement with a couple of my groups, as I was looking for ideas of how to record all the positiveness in the classroom. Pete, @MrMattock showed us BBC Skillswise, the adults learning site, and the resources it had for older children who needed further support on the basics. Clear resources without the gumpf! I was also able to have a catch up with Bruno, @MrReddy, and was happy to share that one of my first responsibilities in my new department is to get TTRockstars properly up and running!

This was my contribution – at the end of school on Friday, a year 8 lad was excitedly telling his form tutor all about the probability tree he created and what each of the parts meant. He was in the nurture group, and the hook to get him engaged in probability trees was making it! All from my colleague Emily next door.

Onto the sessions, and first it was Sarah, @Schamings28, with Developing Resilient and Confident Mathematicians. Perfect, as 3 out of my 4 teaching groups are nurture groups, and resilience and confidence are in short measure. Sarah gave an inspiring workshop, clearly addressing the issues and giving excellent practical advice for taking back into the classroom straight away. She gave some excellent phrases to use to support confidence and resilience, as well as ideas for resources that get pupils practising resilience in low entry challenges which can then be used as a starting point to praise the process of resilience. I would highly recommend Sarah’s workshop if she were to do another one.

Next was an overview of Richard Skemp’s work: Relational Understanding and Instrumental Understanding from Gordon, @gordon-brough. I thought the effects of instrumental and relational teaching and learning was very pertinent. I have downloaded a copy of the paper so I can read through it again.

Jonny’s, @studymaths session on Primes, Patterns and Purposeful Practice was a whirlwind of ideas to engage students in their maths learning.

From “tricks” for squaring n+0.5 two digit numbers, based on expanding brackets like earlier, to factor skyscrapers, HCF/LCM pyramids, the Ulan Sprial, Goldbach’s conjecture, happy numbers, Kaprekar’s routine, Sierpinksi triangle and Chaos Game to name a few, Johnny provided us with many ideas, with quite a few being being enable from his excellent mathsbot.com site. It’s always great when you get an “aha, that’s perfect for when I teach …. next week” moment in a session, as well as a collective “wow” that came with the Chaos Game. Jonny’s session slides can be found here.

Finally I went to see Amir, @workedgechaos, and was treated to a review of how he would and does implement turning research and “current thinking” into practice with his staff. Amir has been a head of department and is now an assistant vice principal. It is very true that there is so much out there at the moment that it can easily become overwhelming. Amir took his big 3 – Bloom’s Mastery, Englemann’s Direct Instruction and Cognitive Load Theory and looked at the common themes. He then boiled it down to Question, Model, Check, Praise and Retrieve. It is, of course, a bit more detailed than that! You can find Amir’s slides and handout here. Amir shared with us an overview of a year’s scheme and how this was delivered each week. For spacing and retrieval, I loved how a topic was spread over several weeks (but not taught over several weeks):

Week 1: Topic A

Week 2: Mini test on topic A

Week 3: DIRT on topic A

Week 7: Review lesson on content A

But it’s not only the speakers and workshops which give great ideas. I happened to bump into Naveen and Dani, @Naveenfrizvi and @danicquinn, and got to ask a couple of questions I was intrigued about. Firstly rolling the timetables and implementing it with a group, and secondly from Dani’s podcast with Craig Barton @Mrbartonmaths, where she said they differentiated by time, so lower groups went slower. I just couldn’t fathom how these groups could have the same expectations if they went slower. The answer is obvious really – they have more time; more lessons!

I know I can’t do justice to some excellent workshops in such a short summary, but if it means that it interests someone to attend the next mathsconf14 in Kettering, March 10, then that’s great. A huge thank you to Mark and his team for another fantastic day of maths teaching CPD, and all the speakers who gave up their time to prepare and deliver such wonderful sessions.

Next for me is to give back and deliver a workshop myself, but for that I need to know I have something to offer that will be of interest to others and that’s worthwhile for teachers to give up their time for.

Oh, and I almost forgot, I need to do a bit of shameless plugging of our #TMBrownhills on Saturday 18th November, featuring @teachertoolkit Ross McGill, author of Teaching Backwards @oteacher Mark Burns and many local teachers presenting on classroom practice.