Maths Conference

Maths Conference (MathsConf18)

Ever wondered what happens in a Maths Conference? This blog endeavours to share these details as Mathematicians share their passion for the subject.

Held in Bristol, the venue for MathsConf18 was situated exactly 123 miles from where I live in Derby. It took me 2 hours and 20 minutes to get to City Academy in Bristol where it was held on 9 March 2019. This included the 15 minutes on top when I took the wrong turning on the motorway. Well it was 6.40am when I left home and am not a day person! Still I managed to get there on time. The long drive was all worth it as I arrived at the venue and seeing familiar faces in Reception. I was then handed my badge and my Maths Conference goody bag. This is my fourth Maths Conference and my fourth blog on these conferences too as I note down my experiences for future reference.

At 0930 we were summoned to the Theatre for the Welcome and Introduction talk by the man himself, Mark McCourt, Chief Executive of La Salle Education. Andrew Taylor of AQA also had his talk. Then a surprise award was handed to Mark for his admirable work, raising funds for the Macmillan Cancer Support, which now totals to well over £40,000 from Maths Conferences events. We also had Mathematical Speed Dating where teachers share resources or favourite maths ideas with fellow teachers/tutors.

So here's my reflection on the workshops I attended:


Rekenrek 101 delivered by Amy How

Manipulatives are a big thing at the moment and I certainly would want to know more about them. The session didn't disappoint. Amy showed her passion in the way she handled this workshop. It certainly was infectious as she kept us engaged the entire time. As Amy mentioned, Rekenrek looks like an abacus but it isn't an abacus. It's a very versatile and visual manipulative. We were able to use the Rekenrek on times tables, addition, subtraction, fraction (fraction of amount) and percentages. She showed us multiplication as a repeated addition. This manipulative can certainly change how we teach these topics to develop/improve the students' conceptual understanding of maths.


Teaching Maths Using Manipulatives: How Cuisenaire Rods Can be Used in Maths Lessons by Drew Foster

I must have booked all workshops on manipulatives. That's how much I want to learn about these various manipulatives to effectively teach Maths to my pupils. These will help greatly in their understanding of the various concepts. We explored how to use Cuisenaire Rods to model mathematical concepts. CPA or Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract had been explored here as it is becoming more popular in schools and Cuisenaire rods does this job. Drew showed us a mini video on 'Call 'one' anything you like' which means 'one' can be any amount you want it to be.


Multiplication - Arrays and the Grid Method as a Mathematical Multi-tool by Mike Thain

Multiplication: Column method or grid method? Solving equations : balance method or flowchart? This workshop explores how arrays and the grid method help students with their conceptual understanding of multiplication. Some concepts presented are not what I would have normally thought of. I've always thought of the column method in multiplication as the most efficient method as it's quick to do and prone to less errors than the grid method. But as Mike explained, the grid method is much better in conceptual understanding. Using Numicon shapes, we can show students odd and even numbers, show commutative law by rotating the array 90 degrees.

After Workshop 3 we had some lunch. I was impressed by the catering staff who went out of their way to make me a gluten free sandwich. Am very grateful for their help. I then went on to peruse some of the books on display and of course went to check out the Maths cakes.


Using Manipulatives to Deepen Conceptual Understanding by Dr Liz Henning

In this workshop, Dr Henning had allowed us the use of Numicon shapes and Cuisinaire Rods to see how these manipulatives can improve conceptual understanding of Maths. These will help students to understand the various structures involved. Dr Henning also discussed Bruner's form of representation which are: Enactive, Iconic and Symbolic. The workshop was very hands on which I thoroughly enjoyed as we experience being at the other end of teaching. I enjoyed the Numicon Shapes which seems quite easy to understand.


Problem Solving in GCSE Mathematics by Daniel Griller

Daniel is not only an educator, he is also a problem composer and bestselling author. In this workshop, he has shown us the reasons why a problem might be considered difficult. This could be due to the heavy algebra involved, unfamiliar context, the need for multiple ideas, lack of scaffolding, large/small otherwise unpalatable numbers, geometry and only line of attack is hard to spot. He presented various difficult questions and asked the audience to analyse them to see the various approaches to the problems.

After the workshops, we had to head back to the theatre for the closing remarks. Mark announced the winners of the raffles, cake competition prizes were handed out then it was time to say our farewells and thankful for another brilliant maths conference. Next one is in June at Sheffield! What are the odds of me going again? I guess pretty high!!


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