Raising student achievement in secondary mathematics

    Published: 20 March 2019

    An audience of secondary mathematics leaders and teachers assembled for the Herts for Learning (HfL) Secondary Mathematics conference, entitled ConferenceIntelligent Practice to Raise Student Achievement. 

    HfL’s Liz Shapland, Deputy Education Services Director (Secondary) and William Thallon, Secondary Teaching and Learning Adviser for Maths, opened the conference, and introduced the two keynote speakers:  Craig Barton, renowned Director of Education at Eedi and Maths Adviser for TES, and Andrew Taylor, Head of Curriculum for Mathematics at AQA.

    Craig and Andrew’s session, entitled ‘Intelligent Practice’, cleverly used the topic of ratio to discuss the link between question design, question performance and how that can help to develop teaching approaches in the classroom.  Andrew gave many practical examples of exam performance demonstrating the kinds of questions children are often struggling with, and Craig discussed various techniques to help children with these, building their confidence, performance and showing how they can achieve success in assessments.

    Craig introduced what he described as one of the keys to learning and his take on intelligent variation in mathematics; getting pupils to adopt the simple process, summarised as ‘reflect, expect and check’ and creating a shared vocabulary around this concept.

    Delegates were signposted to lots of readily available resources on the Internet.  One such example given was the website diagnosticquestions.com, which shows exam questions with answers given around the world, along with the proportions of incorrect answers.  Using available data in this way means that teachers can identify and pre-empt these misconceptions and as a department, can decide how best to teach to avoid them.

    LeafletCraig and Andrew were then joined by other subject experts in leading a series of workshops; giving delegates the chance to explore intelligent practice in a number of mathematical contexts, both pre- and post-16.  Samantha Burns and Pietro Tozzi from Pearson Edexcel talked about developing and inspiring with A level mathematics, while Neil Ogden from OCR performed an intriguingly-named GCSE autopsy, looking at what the results from the new GCSE reveal about teaching.  Meanwhile, Robert Wilne of Atlas Teaching School explored intelligent practice with your hands in his workshop, Plastic Fantastic and Val Pritchard, from Advanced Mathematics Support Programme delivered her workshop: Help, my A-level students can’t square a fraction!; unpicking the issue forensically and offering a range of practical strategies and support.

    Speaking about the conference, William Thallon, Teaching and Learning Adviser – Mathematics at Herts for Learning said: 

    “It has been a privilege to host this conference. Those who attended the conference were inspired and challenged by a fantastic collection of high-profile expert guest speakers, sharing their best practice.  We have come away from the day overflowing with ideas for the classroom which will have a real impact on students’ learning.”

    Also launched by William at the conference was HfL’s brand new GCSE revision programme: Revising for Grade 4 in Mathematics.  Tailored for the needs of students aiming for this important grade, the programme comprises 30 self-contained revision sessions.  Each session consists of a double-sided page which can be peeled off from the booklet.  The programme is intended to encourage and facilitate independent working, and complement students’ in-school revision.  The revision packs are now available for parents and schools to purchase from www.hertsforlearning.co.uk/shop

    The conference was held at the Wyboston Lakes Resort, Bedfordshire.

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