What we learnt from our latest #MathsConf25

Written by Hannah Gillott
on 19 March 2021
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A year on from our last in-person event, Saturday’s virtual #MathsConf25 made the most of the benefits of moving online. Bringing together workshop leaders and delegates from around the world, the day was an energetic and passionate celebration of mathematics not just as a subject to be taught, but as one to be enjoyed, debated and puzzled over for the pure joy of it. Although #MathsConf26 will return to the original in-person format, such was the success of the online version that we will be keeping it for future #MathsConfMini events.

As ever, #MathsConf25 kicked off with a Friday night social, with Rob Smith at the helm of a packed schedule of activities. Our community of mathematics educators forms the foundation of La Salle Education, and founder Mark McCourt passionately believes in creating a space where, at the end of a tough lesson or a challenging day, teachers know they will find someone ready to offer support. That so many of you logged on ready to crack codes, fold origami and debate the number of holes in a t-shirt is testament to the success of that vision, while the headline performance from tutor-by-day-musician-by-night Atul Rana was a brilliant reminder of the many talents of our community.

Fresh approaches to familiar concepts

#MathsConf25 was our biggest yet, with over 50 workshops taking place across six periods and nine rooms throughout Saturday. The generous sponsorship from AQA meant attendees could access every session for just £5, with all recordings made available after the event. As ever, our workshop leaders covered a huge range of topics from the role of storytelling in EYFS classrooms to Data Science for A Level Maths students. The #MathsConf25 hashtag on Twitter was abuzz throughout the day with teachers sharing their excitement over new strategies and insights to incorporate into their lessons — alongside photos of entries for the cake competition, fittingly themed around pi. Many of the workshops challenged delegates to unpick concepts they might take for granted, instead looking in detail at the methodology and didactics behind seemingly simple processes like counting or calculating percentages. Perhaps the most valuable component of #MathsConf is the opportunity to be a learner again, approaching familiar problems with fresh eyes and having the time to share your insights with equally curious colleagues.

Bridging the gap between Primary and Secondary

The “false dichotomy” between Primary and Secondary emerged as another theme throughout the day, with Secondary colleagues embracing the chance to learn more about how mathematical foundations are laid early on. There is clearly a strong desire for more collaboration between the two stages, but the demands of the typical school day often prevent this. Many delegates gladly seized the opportunity to learn from those teaching in different contexts. Larissa Chan’s early session on Discalculia offered a particular reminder of the challenges facing some students, alongside practical strategies that could be implemented in any classroom at any stage of learning.

Celebrating learning, not outcomes

Upon the conclusion of the main workshops, Atul Rana led the Post-MathsConf25 debrief on Twitter — a 90 minute livestreamed discussion with eight other workshop leaders reflecting on the day’s learning. Limes Wright’s workshop on maths anxiety particularly struck a note, with much discussion of the role teachers can play in relieving anxiety for students and transferring, instead, their passion for the subject. Teachers, the debrief concluded, must lead by example, creating an environment in which every member of the class — teacher included — is free to make mistakes. Wrong answers are a rich and often untapped source of learning — raising their status in the classroom opens up opportunities to correct misconceptions and celebrate the mistakes that eventually lead learners to the right solution. The benefits behind such mathematical thinking extend beyond the classroom — what can’t our students achieve when they can reframe failure as another step towards success?

A community for all teachers

#MathsConf25, like those before it, sought to provide a platform for teachers to share their expertise with colleagues. As Mark McCourt so aptly put it during the debrief, “Teachers are intellectuals. They have theories and those theories are worth sharing.” One of the most discussed workshops of the timetable was delivered by Nathan Day, who is nearing the completion of his ITT. The success of his session reinforces how much we have to gain when we open the floor to teachers from all backgrounds and all levels of experience, recognising that every one of us has something to learn but every one of us also has something to share. Workshop leaders will now be offered free attendance to future Complete Mathematics conferences for life, so we would urge anyone considering running one to get in touch with their proposal.

With #MathsConf26 pencilled in for Saturday 10th July in Kettering, we hope to see as many of you as possible in person to continue learning from one another and building our community of maths educators and enthusiasts.

#MathsConf25 ticket holders can relive the conference on our website, with all workshop videos now available to watch back. If you missed out, sign up to our Teacher CPD College where workshop videos are available with your subscription.

As ever, we would like to thank all of our sponsors for making #MathsConf25 possible: AQA, Pearson, Whiterose Maths, Maplesoft, OCR, Collins, The OR Society, WJEC Eduqas, Tarquin Books, Arc Education and SAGE Publications Ltd.