By Mark Dawes (April 2019)
Despite having been a member of the Association for Teachers of Mathematics and The Mathematical Association for more than 20 years, this Easter was the first time I have attended a joint ATM/MA conference. It isn’t something to do lightly, given that it is four days over the Easter holidays and costs (at the advanced-booking rate for members) £500, although there are considerable discounts for trainee teachers.
I thought it was excellent and really hope to be able to go again in future.
The elements of the conference
The conference included: • Plenaries. There were big presentations from Colin Foster, Mike Askew and Sue Gifford. • The AGM of each organisation. • A choice of sessions. These lasted 90 minutes each, there was a choice of about ten sessions each time and a huge variety on offer. • Evening activities such as a quiz and a music evening. • Maths activities in the bar area. • Exhibitions by publishers, exam boards and other organisations. • Opportunities for conversations throughout the day.
There were nine ‘slots’ for sessions during the conference and a wide range of types of session to choose from. Some were presentations, others were workshops, some were directly linked to my teaching while I chose others because I knew they would interesting and challenging. All were interactive and engaging. Each was an hour and a half in length and I was always surprised at how quickly the time passed. Every presenter had prepared more material than we had time to cover and this shows the dedication of the presenters.
An example of a workshop session was the one led by Dietmar Küchemann about his forthcoming book ‘Algebradabra’ . It was good to have the opportunity to work on some of the tasks with other teachers. In fact, working with others was a real theme: it was a great way to get to know people and to see different perspectives on mathematics and education.
An example of a presentation was Jo Morgan’s session, where she showed us scans from old maths text books and picked out ways that the language of mathematics education had changed over the past four or five centuries! Fascinating stuff.
It was a particular pleasure to catch up with some old friends (including, to my surprise, others who are involved in the Cambridge Maths Hub!). I was very pleased to meet in person several people who I have interacted with on Twitter (in the Thursday evening #beingmathematical sessions that I have written about previously). It was good to meet some new people too, and particularly exciting to have the opportunity to think about mathematics and maths education in many different ways, influenced by experienced teachers, by trainees, by consultants and by researchers.
I have returned from the conference with new ideas for teaching algebra, new sources of resources and a reminder of other resources. I am feeling energised and excited about my teaching and am looking forward to the new term.
I would encourage everyone to consider going to the Easter conferences, but I know that this isn’t practical for many people (because of time or cost). The Maths Hub workgroups, while smaller in scale (and non-residential) give an opportunity to do some of the same sorts of things. In a work group you are surrounded by like-minded teachers of mathematics, are able to work together with others, to explore some new mathematics and some of the ways maths can be taught effectively, and can have sessions of a manageable length that give a new perspective and new engagement.
Whether you can go to the next conference or not, do consider signing up for a Maths Hub workgroup for the academic year 2019-20.