#mathsconf6 – Peterborough Edition

People sometimes claim that being a maths teacher isn’t the most glamorous of careers. In the last two years, I’ve attended conferences in Kettering, Sheffield and now Peterborough, so I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on that.

The conference started with the usual keynotes on La Salle’s Complete Mathematics programme and some exam board updates. Complete Mathematics has always looked like a thorough resource base, so I’ll be interested in trying it out following the free trial offered to all attendees.

Session 1 – Mathematics Pedagogy in American Charter Schools with Naveen Rizvi

I could write a review of this, but it would look similar to Naveen’s own review here:

http://conceptionofthegood.co.uk/?p=147

I’d recommend reading the other blog posts while you’re there too – they’re really good!

My highlights included the use of multiple choice questions, and the questions requiring the knowledge of the square root sign meaning ‘positive square root’:

The intertwining of completing the square and factorising cubic expressions was also appreciated.

Maybe the series of blog posts about the American adventure will expand on this, but I’d like to find out more about the impact of the teaching methods on lower ability, or chronically disengaged pupils, rather than to empower the best pupils. The use of minimally different examples and the rest are clearly important tactics, but in every school across the country we have pupils who excel and pupils who fail through whatever teaching methods are used, so it would be good to know more about how this compares in the charter schools.

Session 2 – Unpeeling the Layers of Assessment with Ben Stafford

This session with Ben from AQA gave us an insight into the minds of the people who create the question. We looked at the initial draft and the final version of a question involving cot mobiles, as well as a range of pupils’ attempts at finding the length of a side of a trapezium.

A question from the crowd raised the point as to whether a bilingual dictionary is really enough to overcome the language barrier for EAL students. Have any of you ever tried a maths exam in a different language? I imagine it would be quite an interesting experiment, although I’m not really sure if there’s anything else which can really be done on this point.

Lunch

I had interesting lunchtime conversations on assessment, grading, boundaries and the like with Mark from Ark and Graham from Edexcel. I also discussed finding exemplar GCSE Statistics controlled assessment work at A* grade with Graham. I’m currently in the position where even my best pupils (95%+ on the exam), after following all of the printed guidance, still only get A grades on the controlled assessment, and I’m still not entirely sure where they’re going wrong.

I also had an interesting chat with Baz Wynter about a potential Midlands leg of the tour, but more on that later…

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