Bigger or just better?
I arrived late (as per), then didn't have a badge, then ran to my seat with a coffee just as Mark was starting the opening address - maybe this is why I felt like we'd got onto the speed dating session before I'd even had time to breathe. I certainly feel like we spent a lot less time listening at the start, possibly because there were five rather than four workshop to cram into the day.
The packed programme aside, I also felt like there were more people in the room than either of the previous two, and there seemed to be less no-show badges than usual. Clearly the word's getting round that mathsconf is the place to be, and even the fact that it's no longer free didn't seem to be putting people off. The atmosphere was amazing again; seeing all those teachers and other professionals giving up a Saturday to talk maths education really is ace.
I also felt like I got at least one takeaway from every workshop I attended, and a couple of them were really good - but more later.
I cheated and found a picture ofmy latest toy on the Internet - our History department gave me a Microsoft LifeCam to play with this week, so I talked to people about that (there's a blog with pics planned soon). I picked up some fab ideas, including:
- A James Bond transformations revision activity from @BW_2012_origin;
- A great prime numbers "Say what you see" activity/lesson from @TheNerdLP, which I took a picture of but my phone is dead - she promised a link Tweet-out though;
- Using "Hot Potato" questions at the start of a lesson - give pupils ten questions on the board, their timer starts as soon as the first person enters the room. After a certain time limit, get all pupils to stand up and (differentiating the questions) throw a soft ball to each in turn, getting them to give an answer. Unfortunately I forgot to get the name of this date!
As my badge had gone AWOL and I had no idea which workshops I'd signed up for, I decided to go with the flow and just see what I fancied.
Workshop 1 - Effective Differentiation: Support, Stretch and Challenge (@MissBsResources)
As Danielle berated me at the last #mathsconf for having never been to one of her workshops, I decided to pop along to this first. The room was rammed (due both to the popularity of her session and a labelling mix-up), but I snaffled myself an eager-beaver seat at the front.
I scribbled down a few nice ideas during her talk, and there's certainly a lot of ideas here for new teachers. I really liked:
- Writing a learning objective in the format "Be able to... so that...", including a real-life link where possible, so that pupils understand the relevance of their learning;
- The "learning journey" cards that explicitly told pupils what they would be looking at in a two-week section with differentiated objectives;
- Making pupils read the question, rather than copying the steps of your example from the board, emphasising command words (I have posters), otherwise they'll be unable to apply skills in exams;
- Adding a "Red Herring" problem in to stretch the top end with topics that are typically hard to stretch, such as using a graph showing positive correlation (number of bees and ice-cream sales) but no causation;
- FInally, two websites that I need to investigate further - Numeracy Ninjas and Matific.
My physical notes for this were quite short, mostly because we spent lots of the session playing with bits of paper. We started by trying to fold different shapes out of squares and circles, which we all got really involved with; @mathsjem took this picture of our table.
We spent most of the rest of the session playing with and looking at foldables - you can read more on Jenny's blog, but I'm planning a longer post on this once I've had a go with some of the ideas in my classroom.
Jenny had a few nice suggestions for using the shapes we'd made, including:
I got my circle theorem turned into a badge, which was pretty awesome. I did get a few weird looks when I accidentally wandered round Asda still wearing it though...
I really enjoyed Peter's session; it was stuffed with takeaways and he was really entertaining to watch and listen to. I'm trying out one idea for solving equations this week with Year 10, so will blog about the successes (or otherwise) of that later in the week, but rather than explain all the great ideas, I've just been on his blog and pulled out the relevant posts:
Give me a workshop with 'Resources' in the title and I'll be there, so the Sh****ai talk got ditched so I could go along to this instead. I hope Amir intends to blog about what he said in this workshop, because I'm pretty sure I can't remember or explain what he was on about as eloquently as he did. I scribbled a load of cue-words down, but my biggest takeaway was that resource design should be about creating something that fulfills the necessary teaching or learning requirement, rather than worrying about pupil engagement or having fun. I've added this to my hit-list of things to blog about later, and I have a few photos to upload when I dig my phone out.
I was really chuffed that Amir mentioned one of my resources in the session (the Completing the Square slide he used is here), and not just to call me out on my use of Comic Sans! (Just in case you want proof I've moved on, here's a sample from one of the resources I made this year).
As Jo's one of my favourite ideas people on Twitter (she's in my Pick of Twitter every week without fail), I decided to go see her rather than Kris Boulton's "Stories of Maths" workshop/talk in the main hall. I caught the last bit of Kris's talk about the origin of the word sine, and it really sounded great, but I don't regret picking Jo's workshop for a second - it filled a very necessary gap in my current teaching practice, namely that my A Level teaching, while perfectly functional, is not the most exciting or varied on the planet.
I'm not going to preempt Jo's blog on this, as I'm sure she'll do her material far better justice. I really enjoyed some of the puzzles we worked on and looked at, so look out for a few blogs from me soon about how I get on with using these in the classroom.
EDIT: You can now get all the stuff Jo mentioned in her workshop from this post on Resourceaholic.
Despite the fact that I said this was going to be a short post, I've been at it for long enough to drink three cups of tea, eat a load of pizza and half-watch half a comedy show - I'm still feeling far too enthusiastic and keyed-up at such a great day (my headache's also dissipated now, which is a bit of a bonus). I only feel like I've scraped the tip of the iceberg of things I've picked up from today, and I haven't even gone near reading most of the rest of the #mathsconf5 hashtag.
I'm sure I'll be trying lots of new things or reinvigorating old ones over the next few months - keep checking the blog for updates if you want to see how things have gone!