Last weekend was the inaugural TMMathsIcons event. Being surrounded by like-minded professionals, networking, and discussing how we can improve our practice is truly one of my favourite things to be a part of. It has taken me to many conferences, and I’ve been part of many Twitter chats because of it. But organising a free TeachMeet for other Maths Teachers has really been the pinnacle of my CPD to date.
When Tom Rogers asked me to plan this event as part of the TMIcons family, his brief was as simple as that. This was to be a free event for Maths Teachers, by Maths Teachers. With the event being free and held at the weekend, it also meant that there was less of a barrier to attendance – SLT didn’t need to be asked to stretch their already-tight budgets to allow their teachers to learn; there were no cover costs, and no charge for the CPD itself.
A lot of the CPD we receive at schools at the moment can seem, by necessity, very generic or hard to place in a mathematics lesson. This is through no fault of individual schools as they try to use their limited time and resources wisely. However, as with all subjects, some parts of mathematics teaching and pedagogy are very specific to the subject and therefore can’t be covered in whole-school training sessions. TMMathsIcons, and its sister events, fill that gap: quality CPD, from those at the chalk-face, specific to our wonderful subject.
The day kicked off with a Keynote on Artful Maths from Clarissa Grandi . The session not only encouraged us to get creative and show students the beauty of mathematics through art work, but also highlighted the links to the curriculum and where best to use these activities. These are things we would usually consider to be left for “the last week of the summer term” but delegates started to see where these could be useful in day-to-day lessons.
Our second Keynote from Pete Mattock encouraged us to think about how we often teach parts of maths discreetly, as though they are unconnected and disparate ideas. The session was hands on, involving the use of counters, multi-link cubes and Dienes blocks to show us the journey of addition from simple counting of blocks all the way to addition of fractions with different denominators. All the while Pete was able to keep the links between the initial learning and show us how to extend students’ thinking rather than teaching a new and seemingly unrelated algorithm.
Our final Keynote from Jemma Sherwood followed a similar theme, talking about ‘Simplifying’. Rather than in the algebraic sense, Jemma used this to mean in our planning and curriculum design. She suggested improving our familiarity with what students already know from earlier Key Stages, such as the commutative and distributive laws, and building upon this, rather than creating false complexity from an algorithm such as BIDMAS. Jemma advocated letting the mathematics speak for itself, and warned us against the extra complexities from the ‘scaffolds’ we give students; why not forgo the ‘tree diagram’ for prime factorisation in favour of just showing the repeated multiplications? She also discussed the promotion of coherence through the use of multiplication of negative numbers as reflections, and using this as a basis to teach topics such as scale factors, vectors, and graph transformations.
Our Teach Meet sections of the day were equally as impressive, just in smaller timeframe! These sessions were as follows:
- Esther Stevens on proof, and how she structures her own examples to encourage students to be able to ‘think like an expert’
- Dan Draper told us some hard truths and made us laugh while discussing Shame in the Maths classroom, how growth mindset can be used incorrectly, and how to practically combat this.
- Emma Weston talked us through how her department have developed low stakes tests which allow them to give quality and timely feedback to students, without marking a single book!
- Beth Pugh shared her use of behavioural technique Secret Student (we got 3 minutes’ free time at the end of Friday’s lesson as a reward!) and how she uses Level Up to engage students of all abilities and how this helps them to push themselves in her lessons.
- Laura Wakefield showed us how she uses SATS data to build on students’ strengths and weaknesses when they arrive at secondary school, and how we can do it ourselves.
- Nikki Cooper showed us how ‘foldables’ have transformed note-taking in her classroom
- Jess Sands discussed the foundations needed before students can access proof questions, and how she tackles these deficiencies head on.
- Clare Dackombe shared the evolution of her notes templates for students, to encourage them to create notes worth revising from.
- Jonny Hall gave us a live demo of Algebra Tiles from mathsbot.com . The whistle-stop tour covered directed number, expanding brackets, factorising and completing the square.
- Simon Ball shared his methods for getting Year 12 students comfortable with solving trigonometric equations, without CAST or sketches!
- Michael Craven shared his success with low stakes quizzes for homework, and how these are being adapted a few years into the new spec… he’ll be sharing them all in a few weeks.
The whole day was a great success – we have had many comments about the collaborative and friendly atmosphere, and how these ideas are already being implemented in classrooms and departments across the UK, in just a week since the event!
We feel we created a safe space for teachers from NQTs all the way to PD leads to be able to share ideas and learn from each other. Everyone was on a level playing field, feeling their contributions were valid and discussions flowed. This relaxed nature sets us apart from other events, which are often more formal. This is ever important in the age of Academisation, as many teachers are unable to network in this way without Local Authority input.
Now is a really exciting time to be a maths teacher – there are so many other wonderful educators who regularly share their ideas and resources, including how research has informed their practice. This includes curriculum sequencing and development, subject knowledge, teaching for mastery, Cognitive Load Theory, interleaving and spacing… the list is endless.
We want TMMathsIcons to be at the forefront of this – reigniting a passion for teaching by providing a platform to those who do the best job in the world to share their best practice and improve on it even further. We can’t wait for TMMathsIcons 2020!
Kathryn is a TMMathsIcons organiser. You can follower her on Twitter @Arithmaticks.