I want to reflect on my first ever La Salle Education mathematics conference yesterday – #Mathsconf13 – at King Edward VII school in Sheffield. The main reflection for me was the fact that about 400 mathematics teachers from across the country gave up their Saturday to attend what turned into a very high quality professional development event. The future of mathematics education in the country in this country is bright with so many colleagues listening to and delivering high quality training and lesson ideas.

My only disappointment was that there were so many different workshops I wanted to attend but couldn’t because I had to choose 4. Matt Parker was his usual brilliant and humourous self to start the ball rolling – I saw him at the Crucible at one of the inspiration events a couple of years ago and am really looking forward to taking a group of students to another at the end of the month.

We then had a speed-dating session which I have to admit I was a little anxious about but I spoke to a couple of lovely fellow teachers and came away with some good ideas – I even bumped into an ex-pupil who is now a mathematics teacher! My share was my calendars – which seemed to go down well.

The day was, in a geeky sort of way, a little awe-inspiring as I was hearing from, sometimes talking to and spotting people I follow on Twitter – I have to say I was sat there, mentally ticking off some of the mathematics teachers I really admire. I attended the Asking Better Questions session run by Ed Southall, someone I follow avidly on twitter and absolutely love his questions on his solve my maths site – questions I’ve used a lot to stretch and challenge students – and whose book, Yes But Why, I’ve bought and am really enjoying.

Question design is something I’m particularly interested in and this reinforced some of what I’m already doing particularly starting from the end getting students to work backwards to embed a deeper understanding – so for example when teaching solving using the quadratic formula (something I’m doing with my year 10 class at the moment) asking questions like…

My next workshop was using Richard Skemp’s paper on Instrumental and Relational Understanding – a paper I remember reading as part of my PGCE 20 odd years ago. A really interesting discussion of the pros and cons of both types of understanding and a workshop where my big take is that I am going to re-read Skemp’s paper (and others). You can download the paper here:

Skemp, Relational and Instrumental Understanding

My third was titled “Who or what is a maths teacher” presented by Lucy Rycroft-Smith (@HoneyPiSquared) – I’m not sure what I expected from this workshop but it certainly got me thinking about the diversity of the human race and maybe the lack of diversity in mathematics teaching and the stereotypes we all have. I’m still mulling over thoughts from this presentation now and will be for a long time.

Final workshop was from Danielle Bartram (@missbresources) around Spaced Learning and Low Stakes Quizzes. I’ve been reading quite a bit currently around cognitive load theory and the forgetting curve – and looking at how I can better use Spaced Learning in my own teaching and this gave me a different framework which I intend tailoring for my classroom.

The big thing I took from the day was how amazing CPD can be if you work collaboratively with your colleagues in school and especially on twitter. I’ve done little bits myself on this site and on twitter but it has given my drive to try to do more – blog more, use my inner magpie to design resources using those out there as a basis and try to interact much more with the amazing world that is mathematics education on the twittersphere. I certainly will be attending more of these – in fact I believe there is on in Manchester next June – I can’t wait.

(Note – none of the pictures I took myself – I’m nicked them from twitter!)