I am so pleased that I went to Mathsconf15, it was an absolutely brilliant experience. I have been somewhat late to the twitter game and so only just found out about the mathsconfs this year. Can’t believe I only discovered them when they are on their 15th conference!

If like me (until today) you have not been to a mathsconf, I strongly recommend that you go.

The whole conference was well organised from start to finish. I was asked to select which sessions I wanted to go to before the event. I was able to select 4 different sessions to attend and trust me, it was a hard decision. There were so many excellent talks on offer that finally deciding did take some time. These sessions were then printed on my badge when I arrived in case I had forgotten.

La Salle also recommended which hotel to stay in the night before as this would be where most delegates would stay. I decided to take their advice and they were certainly correct. The premier inn was in an excellent location that was easy to get to by car, train or bus. The hotel wasn’t a bad price and it was great to be able to meet people the night before the conference in the hotel bar. I had been told that the drinks would stat at 7:30pm and so I decided to be fashionably late and turn up at 8:30pm. The other delegates were very easy to find and I was made to feel very welcome. It was easy to make conversation with the people there and it was a really lovely evening. I am really glad I went to the night before drinks as it meant that at the event I know some people and so I was able to visit the stalls with others and also have someone to sit with in the sessions and eat lunch with. I know this might not seem like a big deal but having people to chat to during the day and eat lunch with is nice. At no point in the conference did I feel out of place or alone.

The activities that were on offer during the day really added to the great atmosphere. There was a mathematical treasure hunt to complete by visiting the different stalls and answering the different questions. Definitely worth a go considering a tablet was on offer for the prize!

There was then a bake off competition throughout the day. The title is somewhat self explanatory; the theme of the cakes was maths. It was certainly a great competition considering that at lunch time the cakes were then cut into slices and handed out!

At lunch there was also a ‘tweet up’ which was an example to meet people from twitter. This was a really nice idea and once again, if you did find yourself on your own. gave you somewhere to go to meet people and take part in maths activities. I made a hexaflagon whilst meeting others and networking. It was another lovely part of the day.

The sessions that I went to were exceptionally good, mathsconf15 had some excellent presenters who were inspiring and certainly gave me a lot to think about.

Jo Morgan in her session on Indices brought up some excellent points and showed some great examples. Jo showed us some extracts from a Victorian text book, text books from the 50s and then showed us examples from a text book that is fairly recent. Jo made a very valid point which is that text books in the 50s had about 50 questions to promote fluency whereas more recent text books only have about 6 questions. What a major difference! Now some one did put on my twitter feed what is the point in 50 questions but what they have not realised is that the 50 questions are not identical but change slightly each time to present the concept in a different way and to promote true fluency and not just drill and skill.

The session certainly brought a lot of questions to light and it was excellent that Jo was very honest about how she used to teach indices and how she does it now. Her anecdote about her interview lesson where she practically taught the whole of indices in one hour was very enlightening and she now suggests that we could teach indices over 10 lessons. For example a full lesson on index notation, lessons on multiplying with indices, changing the base, index law and then dividing by indices. Everything that Jo presented would certainly have been more than enough to fill up to 10 lessons. She then presented the question below and implied that if our students were truly fluent with indices then they should be able to answer a question that merges several of the concepts together:

The whole idea of studying a topic in depth before we teach it was brilliant and just made me wish I had time to be able to study every topic in this depth. A huge thank you to Jo for taking the time to conduct her research and then for sharing it on such a big scale.

A website that Jo mentioned that she uses with the students to help with fluency is: https://fortyninecubed.wordpress.com/ Jess was then presenting with Craig Barton and Ben Gordon. Reading Jess’s blog, it is brilliant to see that she started writing the minimally different worksheets because of Mr Barton’s book and because of the conversations that had been taking place at mathsconf14. That makes me excited to think about what excellent resources and ideas are going to come out of mathsconf15?

The presentation was given was excellent and the variationtheory that was being shared was very interesting. I want to make it clear that only one small part of variation theory was being discussed. The idea behind the minimally different worksheets is to present students with meaningful practise that makes them think and not just make them monotonously go through the motions. By changing one small thing each time, the students should be able to reflect upon the previous question,  make an expectation about the next question and then check their answer by completing the question; REFLECT, EXPECT, CHECK.

There can be a few ways in which this can be done:

  1. Example – show students how to carry out a procedure and then to help develop fluency
  2. Rule – To show students a carefully varied series of examples and non examples so they can better discern for themselves what constitutes a rule or a defintion

The picture below is Ben demonstrating some examples and non examples. He took the topic ‘mode from a frequency table’ (which he stated should be taught as a full lesson and not as a tag on) and created a basic table. The table contained some misconceptions may appear and then had a statement next to it. The students then had to decide if the statement was true or false. Each question only changed one small detail each time so again each example was minimally different. Ben had trialled this with a class and did this whole section in the lesson in silence. He did not want to overload the students by talking over the top whilst they were trying to concentrate.


3. Pattern – To present students with a logical pattern which helps them predict the answers to something.

4. Demonstrate – To demonstrate a concept to students using technology

Once again this session was thought provoking and sent me away excited about had been discussed. What was also very exciting is that Mr Barton, fortyninecubed and Mr Gordon have all joined together to create http://variationtheory.com/ which is a compilation of different powerpoints that fit into one of these 4 categories. Definitely check it out!


Overall, I LOVED my experience at mathsconf15 and am genuinely excited for my next installment at mathsconf.

For those of you who are interested: Mathsconf16 is on 8th September in Glasgow and then Mathsconf17 is on 13th October in Birmingham, It would be great to see you there!

(all mathsconf dates can be found at https://completemaths.com/events)



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