What I’ve been up to lately – November edition

I’m finding it strange to believe that it’s been just over two months since my last day at NRICH, and the start of my fully freelance maths communication and education career! Two months in seems like a good time to do an update, so here goes…

Late August and early September was taken up with some question vetting work. I hadn’t done this sort of work before, and I have to say, I really enjoyed it! It gave me a lot more insight into the process of writing exam questions, I spend a big chunk of time just working through questions looking for snags, and the best bit was thinking about how students would approach the question and trying to be as imaginative as possible about how the question might break, before coming up with possible fixes. I am looking forward to finding opportunities to do this sort of work again in the future.

In September and early October I worked on a teacher guide and some lesson plans for the brilliant Mathigon website. If you haven’t checked out Mathigon you are missing a real treat – I keep discovering more and more “wow” moments as I click around the site. The little bit that I worked on can be found in the Polypad section – check out the teacher guide and lesson plans with suggestions on how to use the Polypad digital manipulatives. I’m looking into other areas of the Mathigon site that I can contribute towards – it’s so great to be able to play even a small part in creating “The Textbook of the Future”.

The start of October was Maths Week in Scotland, and I was delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to the programme together with my good friend and fellow maths-freelancer Fran Watson. Fran and I worked together when we were both at NRICH, and being able to continue that working relationship has been hugely supportive to me as I make the transition to freelance. We were delighted that several hundred people tuned in to our Maths Origami live streams, where we shared some folds that explored 3D shape and symmetry. Following on from this success, Fran has persuaded me to team up again for Maths Week England next week – this time, instead of doing a stream targeted at younger students we are putting on an after school event that will be ideal for teachers but also older students or any interested adult who wants to explore how maths and origami are related! We are running it using a “pay-what-you-can” model so that we can cover our costs but keep it open to as many people as we can – check out the Eventbrite page for more details.

I was invited to lead a session for the London ATM/MA branch on October 10th, so I put together a set of problems and musings on the topic “Using Patterns and Structure to develop Algebraic Thinking”. I really enjoyed thinking about what I wanted to say on this topic – it merits at least one blog post in its own right – but highlights were probably using it as an excuse to get the lego out and make some lego patterns for delegates to look at under the visualiser and speculate about how the sequences might continue! I do think that teaching Algebra in a way that links with patterns and structure should be part of every secondary maths teacher’s toolkit, and it’s something I’m very happy to offer teacher professional development on – if you’re reading this and you want to book me to work with you on this, get in touch!

I have also been very privileged this term to be able to work behind the scenes for the excellent Maths Inspiration online programme. If you’ve watched any of their shows this term, you’ll know they now have an excited interactive voting and commenting system – I have been helping out to make sure that all the votes open and close on time correctly, as well as reading all the comments to pass them on to the presenters. It’s a nice change of pace for me to be working on a live online event in a support capacity rather than presenting, and of course it means I get to watch some of my favourite maths presenters and pick up lots of tips and tricks! There are more shows coming up in November and early December so if you are a secondary teacher looking for enrichment opportunities for your GCSE and A Level classes, check out the Maths Inspiration website.

The rest of my time has been spent lining up projects for the next couple of months (as well as the usual admin and finance chores) – keep an eye on my Twitter feed if you want to know what I’m up to and can’t wait for the next update post. And of course I am still devoting some of my time to teaching – this term I have GCSE and A level students who I am tutoring online, though I do still have a bit of availability, so if you know anyone who is looking for a maths tutor, drop me a line!

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