The Annual Conference, CPD and AGM 2011 was held on Wednesday 6th July in Peterborough

Conference Reports and Resources

Functional Skills within mathematics

 Frank Eade for Manchester Metropolitan University


Frank Eade ran a most thought provoking session on functional skills. He challenged the traditional view that skills are required before application in order to succeed in mathematics. He claimed that mathematical objects and concepts are very strange and that often learners develop odd ideas that don't shift across when they seek to apply them. He encouraged us, as teachers, to use reality as a source of maths and stressed that our role as teachers should be to think of how we can help learners make sense of situations.


One way in which he illustrated this was by presenting us with photos of everyday objects to discuss; two houses on a suburban street (did the gables on each have the same angle at the apex?), an office building with a wall of windows (how would you count them?), two lines on a piece of wood (did they create the same angle when they met the table?). These stimulated lively discussion between the teachers present who all contributed eagerly.


The session made me think about ways of adapting my teaching practice to include more real life situations. I hope as result to develop my learners' confidence in discussing mathematical ideas and to encourage them to see more connections with maths and the world around them.

Ceri Griffiths 2011


Use of models and images to help students make sense of mathematics

Frank Eade for Manchester Metropolitan University


The presentation was about number lines and ratio tables which are visual methods to represent arithmetical operations which can aid the understanding of learners who are struggling with more traditional teaching methods. Number lines use visual proportions to help find an answer, so if 2m of ribbon cost £3, a line drawn three times as long will help identify that 6m of ribbon will cost £9. Ratio tables break down numbers into parts in a tabular format that then can be added together to find a new target number.


Frank Eade made two very important points in the presentation; first, stressing the importance of visual prompts that the learners themselves can access, construct and control. Second, in the consistent use of related methods to enable learners to see how arithmetical operations such as multiplication and finding parts of a whole are related, and that learners should be encouraged to make intuitive connections between such arithmetical operations so that they build up a picture of mathematics as an interrelated whole rather than independent topics learned by rote.


What was impressive about the presentation was not only the new approach to pedagogy, but that the effectiveness of this approach was backed by research. So much of what is presented as good practice is often only based on anecdote or the personal prejudices of the proposer. As such, it is a pleasant change to see something supported by empirical research.




Incorporating functionality in mathematics into classroom practice

The workshop delivered by Joan Ashley and John Barton was an informative and comfortingly reassuring one. For those new to teaching functional skills it provided good guidance and ideas. There was discussion on the importance of analysing problems but in different contexts while being able to recognise the buzz words that linked them. It was stressed that learners need to be able to understand and use the maths while developing analytical and reasoning skills to draw conclusions and identify errors. This helps to give learners the confidence and capability to solve problems irrespective of the context. For those already teaching it was good to know that we are 'on the right lines' and there were many useful suggestions of websites eg Bowlands Maths and other resources such as 'We can work it out' a problem solving maths booklet. Suggestions for engaging learners included making posters for show and tell and peer marking using mark schemes for the important points made. The workshop allowed for us to share our experiences and to reassure those just starting out so was useful for all.

Christina Zamoyska, Loughborough College


Engaging level 3 learners


'Engaging level 3 learners' was a highly interactive session where we looked at resources in the NCTEM elibrary ( ). Starters, spotting the 'odd one out' and 'what's the same, what's different?' questions gave a rich variety of ways to engage all learners. Participants had a go at not only answering the questions but creating their own questions by collaborating in threes or fours then testing their suggestion on another group. Examples of the 'always, sometimes, never' cards were investigated but the focus was using small group work to show how students could generate their own questions. This was really useful as it would take away the onus on the teacher always having to find the resources.


We looked at the NCTEM FE Magazine Issue 22 from Mathematical Moments and a card activity to practise the notation of calculus. The materials were provided from the website along with some suggestions on questions to ask and ways to facilitate the learning. It is always useful to have a resource that has been tried and tested with hints for insightful questions included.


If you liked using the Standards Unit material, then there is a wealth of similar things available on the NCTEM website. Although I already use many of the ideas , it was really helpful to have reference to a bank of resources and to realise that throwing the activity back onto the students can generate just as much, if not more understanding by them having to sort out questions for themselves. This could be very useful for revision sessions.


Other materials such as RISPS, Rich Starting Points for A Level Core Mathematics were touched upon.( were touched upon. If you don't know these then check them out because they can be used to introduce, consolidate or revise a topic and are well worth investigating. Another useful website is stemNRICH- Advanced ( which explores ways mathematics, science and technology are linked taking you from post-16 level right through to first year at university.


Overall it was a super day, where professionals shared ideas and resources and you could have time out to overview your own practice and get suggestions on how to improve and make your teaching more effective.

Julie Dillow- Leicester College