Engaging with Mathematics: A journey for teachers, learners and families –
A day of “absolute revelation”
“Progress in improving schools isn’t about money and buildings, it’s about teachers who are passionate about their subject, obsessed with quality and improving their practice by doing things like being here today.”
With these words Brian Walker, headteacher of West Park School, Derby, drew to a close what he described as a day of “absolute revelation”.
The NCETM’s National CPD conference, Engaging with Mathematics: A journey for teachers, learners and families, at the University of Nottingham on 1 December, brought together more than 250 people with a desire to improve the teaching of mathematics in schools and colleges throughout England.
Throughout the day, delegates explored learners’ attitudes to mathematics: how to engage and support them; what influences them from their earliest exposure to mathematics through to their career choices; how to work together to make their experience positive and encourage them to progress successfully through mathematics to further education and beyond.
Professor Janet Ainley, Director of the School of Education at the University of Leicester, started the day off with a talk about what makes Inspiring Mathematics. She stressed that mathematics is part of our cultural heritage and asked how teachers could get beyond the ‘grammar’ of the subject to the ‘Shakespeare’ underneath. By this she meant accessing the powerful ideas that underpin mathematics and giving learners a sense of challenge and fun; by finding patterns, seeing the bigger picture, exploring the big ideas, and by making connections.
Delegates took part in workshops throughout the day that addressed three important themes: Engaging with mathematics in the classroom, and at home; and progression and transition through mathematics. Between sessions they browsed the Knowledge Exchange in the foyer that contained displays from NCETM-funded projects, subject associations, government initiatives and resources for mathematics teaching and learning – and of course, took the opportunity for some invaluable networking with fellow participants.
Two important new initiatives were launched at the conference. In the morning, NCETM Director Celia Hoyles welcomed the new CMathTeach designation – something that she said had been created by and for the mathematics teaching community. The new status reflects the balance between teaching skills (pedagogy) and mathematics knowledge that is necessary for a professional teacher to educate and inspire today’s students, and it identifies a teacher as being at the forefront of the profession. Professor Hoyles awarded certificates to a small group of teachers who were pioneers in the new qualification.
In the afternoon, Kate Bellingham, National STEM Careers Coordinator, launched the Maths Careers website, designed to inspire and inform those interested in studying mathematics with a wealth of information about how they can use the subject to follow a huge range of professions. She believed the site’s strength lay in the fact that its dynamic, cutting-edge function and design would be “something young people could be comfortable accessing”.
She interviewed three young people at different stages of their maths journey about both the barriers and the inspirational experiences that had shaped their choices along the way.
One perhaps reflected the ultimate aspiration of all those who want to engage their learners, when she remarked: “I love maths, I don’t need a reason, I just love the beauty of maths!”