The Bett Show in London is an Educational Technology Exhibition held every year for four days. Companies that supply hardware, software and other educational technology related material to schools showcase their products. Additionally there are young EdTech startup companies also exhibiting there. This blog post covers a short review of my visit there this year.
Tutoring is a lonely profession and online tutoring is a niche within the tutoring profession itself. It is hard to judge the scale of the impact of technology on education when working alone. I have often felt like a lone voice of online tutoring and technology in tutoring in general. There are barely even a handful of tutors I know who tutor 100% online (though those who tutor a mix of online and in person are a lot larger in number). Over the years I have gone to great efforts to organise tutor meetups, find Facebook online communities and more recently attend the excellent maths conferences and CPD by the La Salle Education Network. The missing piece though has been something online tutoring/teaching related.
I am a tech geek at heart and my tutoring is based completely around technology. Technology has revolutionised the effectiveness, impact and business of tutoring for me. As such I am really passionate about it and need inspiration on that angle. So it was incredible to visit Bett Show and be wowed by a giant hall of all things EdTech. The world’s largest education technology show, 4 days, over 300 stands, many inspiring lectures, big names like Google, Microsoft, Apple putting in their weight behind EdTech products and lots of smaller EdTech companies.
Seeing the technology in action there in such a vast arena was like a dream for me. From Microsoft’s Minecraft games to Google’s lecture hall and classroom there were many toys to play with and see all sorts of great things. Most of the displays and products were angled at classroom teaching, though with some creativity I am sure I can adapt them to online tutoring.
Virtual Reality in teaching is much further along than I thought it was. I wore a headset and got to be in a world war 1 scene in the trenches. Thanks to some augmented reality I could see little dinosaurs on tables. Some of the smartboards out there are truly incredible, images, video, colourful drawing all on one large creative canvas. I had no idea that this was even possible. I am hoping that this type of technology can be implemented in the type of virtual whiteboards I use for my day to day tutoring.
I also saw lots of other stands, including one about Dyscalculia intervention teaching via a website. It looks pretty impressive as the exercises were well designed. The one stand I had booked an appointment for was the HUE HD document camera team. When I started tweeting about their camera last year and tagging them, their social media representative was very impressed with how I use the camera in my tutoring. That camera is a classroom visualiser and they sell to schools, so online tutoring was very out of the box for them. I got invited to write a blog post on their teachers for teachers blog. And finally I got to meet the person I had been emailing all these months in person! On behalf of the Ultimate Support Group for Online Tutors Facebook group manager Joanne Kaminski, I awarded the HUE team with the tech resource of the month award.
I was there for a whole afternoon for about 4 hours. This is nowhere enough time to really go into the show in depth and only gives a taste of it all. I would like to plan a longer visit next year and see more of the lectures. I leave the show really inspired, energised and with so much more confidence knowing that I am not one of a few lone EdTech educators, I am in company of a whole educational technology revolution.
This blog post is a write up of my fourth maths conference. La Salle Education run the UK’s largest network of maths teachers’ professional development along with an online platform Complete Maths. Attended by around 400 maths teachers and a few tutors, the conferences are invaluable professional development, training and networking with fellow maths teaching professionals.
TLDR : All four workshops were phenomenal as standalone workshops. In the sequence I attended them, they compounded my learning even more.
Friday – Hotel tutoring and drinks
I have Friday tutees and Saturday is my busiest tutoring day. I wasn’t going to let that get in the way of going to #mathsconf17 though so I rescheduled many of my Saturday students well in advance. I took the train on Friday morning, checked into the hotel, set up my mobile online tutoring office (laptop + graphics tablet) and away I went tutoring until the evening.
Selfie time with Mr Corbett!
Fellow tutor friend and conference buddy Austin (@Lazyrunner78) arrived after a long evening of his own tutoring. We had a catch up and then made it to the bar late. The Friday drinks are always so welcoming, you can join anyone and instantly share your own enthusiasm of teaching amongst fellow teachers who understand the slightly crazy passion we have for teaching maths. I met some new teachers, both local to Birmingham and those who travelled. The friendly Mr Robert Smith was welcoming as always, introducing people to each other and keeping us all ticking socially.
Speed dating with some unexpected Science
The Saturday was buzzing and La Salle CEO Mark McCourt opened the conference with an intro. His story on how the conferences started and his passion of empowering and bringing together maths educators set the scene for the day. We kicked it all off with mathematical speed dating. This was missing at #mathsconf15 so it was good to see the return. A speed date is talking to a teacher for two minutes about your best teaching ideas then hearing the teacher for two minutes. That’s one speed date, next you find a random teacher and then rinse and repeat four more times. Mark reminded us all on how a mathematical speed date in Birmingham led to a wedding two years ago. Love that story!
Andrew Taylor from AQA.
I shared my own ideas on using manipulatives to teach from a mixture of algebra tiles to the meaning of pi experiment. Amongst my dates I met a teacher from Birmingham who was retraining from being a Chemistry teacher to teach maths. As it was his first conference he felt a bit out of place amongst so many seasoned maths teachers. I reassured him that I felt even more out of place at my first maths conference as a private tutor but now I know the community is super supportive. Since we both also taught Science it was so easy to go straight into common themes between the two. His speciality was Chemistry so we had plenty to talk about that. I had my big aha moment right at the end of the day too on maths and Chemistry. More on that later.
Workshop 1 : Tech, Tech, Tech from Steep Roads to CGI Films
This is the second time I went to Douglas Butler’s (@douglasbutler1) talk, previously seeing him at #mathsconf10. This second helping was with a different flavour. He gave an overview of some of the items on this list.
Top Google Earth Objects
Top Large Data Sets on the Web
Top Uses of Excel
Top Problem Solving Ideas
Top Twitterers to Follow
Top Maths Blogs
Top YouTube Channels
Top Mathematics Entertainment
Top Dynamic Software for KS3-4
Top Dynamic Software for KS5
Maths cakes. Perfect for sugar rush.
I have installed Google Earth pro on my computer after seeing it in action at this workshop. I use Google maps with tutees already to show them the similarity between New York’s grid layout and the x-y system. Google Earth Pro can do so so much more though. He showed the world’s largest equilateral triangle layout, parabolas, pentagon and the world’s steepest road. He also gave us all a hearing test. The airline industry is full of amazing data that can be used to show the perils of sampling data from a population. We also got a taster of Autograph and Excel. I am amazed by what those pieces of software can do. He finished off by making an animated version of the Starship enterprise from Star Trek to show 3D dynamic geometry in action, with music included!
Douglas tells great stories and delivers with such great enthusiasm that you are drawn into the world of maths he reveals with the help of simple technology. I’ve got such great ideas from this workshop which will no doubt help my online maths tutoring for KS3, GCSE and A Level students.
All that geometry and visual representation got me in the perfect mood for Singapore maths next.
Workshop 2 : Dyscalculia, Bar Modelling and the rise of Singapore
Dyscalculia and Singapore bar modelling are massive topics. I have been to day courses on both of them before. To deliver a concise idea of the two in one workshop was no small achievement by Judi Hornigold (@DyscalculiaInfo).
Counters are a powerful tool in learning maths.
I have totally immersed myself into tutoring and understanding Dyscalculia after going to a day workshop on it 3 years ago. Judi told us how we can better define Dyscalculia so that we can then address it. She also discussed that in many cases Dyscalculia might appear to be the issue when in fact it is maths anxiety. Anxiety triggers a fight or flight reflex shutting students down to learning maths. Again, maths anxiety is a huge topic on its own.
So how can Singapore maths help? Students and teachers in Singapore had never heard of maths anxiety to her surprise. Judi went through a brief history of Singapore maths and then we got to the fun bit! Using counters, cuisenaire rods, Singapore strips (of paper) – Singapore strips sure got some chuckles in the room. We looked at the bar model method itself for a range of situations from number bonds, ratio questions, linear equations in counters to the idea of metacognition for students. Metacognition is about building into students how and when to recognise when a problem can be reduced down and then solved in a different way, rather than applying an algorithm on autopilot. A quick example is on finding 12.5% of a large number without using a calculator. If students recognise 12.5% instantly as one eighth then they can divide the number by 8 instead.
Singapore maths and bar modelling is changing lives for children. Judi had some amazing stories of students cracking things in maths. She had stories of students in tears of joy when they figured out concepts. I can relate to that as I had a Year 11 tutee who had battled with ratios all his life. It made sense to him after just half an hour when I used the bar model with him as the very first tutoring session I ever had with him. The utter delight and sigh of relief he had at understanding ratios is something I still remember so clearly.
What an inspiring, well thought workshop. Inspiring low motivation students was just about to be covered in workshop 3.
Workshop 3 : Re-visioning success and the marigolds of multiplication
Julia Smith (@tessmaths) is a motivational power house, absolutely no doubt about it. She works with some of the least motivated students, those who have retaken GCSE maths and in some cases, are still retaking. She has found many ways of motivating students and has some excellent methods on how to help them revise and pass their exams.
Re-vision workshop in the school music room.
Julia started off the talk by clarifying that if students haven’t managed to figure a method out by the age of 15 and a high stakes retake exam is imminent, then it is time to re-visit the topic in a totally different way. If a method that works for them to give them the correct answer, then no matter how procedural or ‘quick fix’ the method seems, it is more than worth it to get the student to pass, gain confidence and go on to get a better paying career in life.
She broke down the word Re-vision into re and vision. I had never thought about it this way so this was very refreshing. We also discussed possible answers to the “I hate maths” line from demotivated students and a tea towel of her revision techniques was given to one of her favourite responses.
I am really torn when I have to teach to the test rather than teach for understanding. I will switch to teaching for the test in cases when I have to. To many of my students their dream might be to work in Veterinary Science, Sports Science, Nursing, Music Tech or something that requires that all important maths pass. I’ve got such students over the maths hurdle and it is truly satisfying.
Amongst her top tips was the idea of double marking past papers, one with the real mark and the other with what the mark could have been with all slip ups and silly errors were given. Getting students to visualise tough moments in exams and to work out strategies to overcome those tough moments and to continue. Her centrepiece was her toolbox, which amongst other methods uses the marigolds of multiplication. This helps students to instantly figure out the times tables of 6,7,8 and 9. It works and will get students out of jail when they most need it, I really liked it! The other technique that I learnt was Vedic multiplication using just line strokes and counting for long multiplication. Again, what a superb technique.
She also stressed that the way to do maths is to do lots of it, the importance of good exam technique and plugging gaps in the nine basics. Corbettmaths revision cards were mentioned amongst mathsbot and a few other great revision resources.
What came across so well is Julia’s energy and a can-do attitude to get her students over that line. I will take a lot away from this workshop and have new found courage to help my GCSE retake tutees.
On to workshop 4. I was already primed for linear equations from the bar modelling workshop earlier in the day.
Workshop 4 : Atomising Linear Equations and an aha moment with Chemistry
Choosing this fourth workshop was a tough decision indeed. Between Jo Morgan’s workshop on solving quadratics, this one by Kris Boulton (@Kris_Boulton) and Pete Mattock’s one I had to pick just one. The title of this talk “How to solve linear equations, 100%, guaranteed” and a compelling description is what really sold it to me in the end. Perhaps the biggest motivating factor for me was that solving linear algebra equations is one of those pivotal key skills that once cracked, really gets students a firm grounding for algebra in general. I keep having to revisit it with some students.
Kris started off with Al Khwarizmi. This is what I do when introducing linear algebra to students, so this struck a chord with me instantly. I ask students to google the origins of algebra and more on Al Khwarizmi’s book. We then talk about some of the words that come up, balancing, restoration, completion etc. Kris went into some detail about the appropriate use of the equivalent, equal signs and the word solve.
Atomising how to solve linear equations
He has ‘atomised’ the process of solving one step linear equations in some very fine detail indeed, 17 steps in fact. Breaking and repairing equations was the sort of language I have not heard in this context, so it really gave me food for thought. These steps could be put into component process pretty much independent of each other.
I was sitting next to Austin for this last talk of the day and we both tried to come to terms with the idea of breaking an equation. This careful ‘atomisation’ and the early Chemistry moment suddenly gave me a Eureka moment. At GCSE Chemistry students are given equations to balance. These are broken equations because atoms are quite literally in unbalanced numbers on both sides. Balancing equations is a nightmare topic in Chemistry and Kris’s talk has given me an idea on breaking the process down rather than teaching it as one big process from start to end.
There was a lot in this last talk of the day and by being forced to think in language I had previously not encountered I have taken a lot away from this workshop.
Fan moments, freebies and meeting other maths tutors
It is so refreshing to see more tutors turn up to these conferences. The Maths Tutors UK group has about five core members who attend these conferences and a new tutor local to the conference always joins in. It is vital that tutors get out there to such events as working in isolation has drawbacks.
Free books from CGP!
The rest of the conference was all about goodies from CGP, maths cakes, selfies with the legend that is Mr Corbett (we were in a long queue of selfie takers!) and all round socialising.
In summary this was the best maths conference for me yet. On its own each workshop was perfection. By design or sheer coincidence the order in which the workshops followed one another complimented each other so well. Compounding at its best. Einstein wasn’t kidding when he said it is the eighth wonder of the world!
The positive, supportive, can-do energy of these conferences is what bring me back to them each time. Endless thanks to the La Salle team and Mark McCourt for making this all possible.
With the new school year starting up I feel thoroughly refreshed and excited to start a new year again. My online tutoring has just grown and grown and with it so has the demand on my time, particularly now that I am involved in various other tutoring projects like Indie Tutors, BitPaper, various Facebook Tutor groups, EdTech stuff, maths CPD and general networking. In terms of growth, last year was really exciting indeed and I covered that a little in my end of 2017 blog post. However, more so than any year, I felt I overtutored last year. And so this year I have already limited the slots I will tutor.
Hanging out with Aniello at the end of year The Profs party.
Last summer I moved out of my flat in Old Street and have been living with my family for a year now. Since location does not really matter to me in terms of my job this worked out well while I am in an interim stage of my life before getting on to the property ladder.
The summer heatwave in the UK gave me and family a perfect excuse to go out to many day outs in and out of London. Southend on Sea is the nearest coastline to us so we went there and saw the world’s longest pier, Windsor got us some royal history and cream tea, lots of local fairs meant indulging in some great food and I explored the beautiful area around Hackney Wick which shows how much East London has developed.
Southend pier. A good day out on a hot summer day.
The Profs summer party was a real celebration of tutors and I got nominated for best online tutor of the year 2018. Away from London, a weekend outing in the countryside, jamming music in the open air with other musicians was absolutely divine. I played the open air Mint Street Music festival as a musician which was great on a hot day. The Summer is all about big gigs and I got to see my local band Iron Maiden at the O2. East London’s finest.
While the football World Cup was very enjoyable and we were all in awe of Southgate and his new team, the highlight for my family was watching the Ladies Hockey World Cup 2018. This World Cup really did come home, in fact just a couple or so miles from it where the London Olympics hockey games were played in Lee Valley stadium. We got autographs from the entire Indian team and watched the games on a big screen (tickets were sold out by the time we knew). We also went out on a cable car ride and the riverboat and the Farnborough Air Show on a very hot day.
Another escape from London in late August got me to catch up with my ex-bandmate and some other musician friends in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is a place that will always be close to my heart because of the time I spent there as a student. And going to Whistle Binkies music venue 20 years later was quite something.
I wasn’t completely away from tutoring and Science though, I had the odd student and true to spirit I organised a tutors meet-up at Hyde Park. I also showed a student and parent around the Science Museum in London and met my client in person after a whole year. To indulge myself in Science even more, I paid a visit to the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition which. It is a really inspiring outing with various bits of new and cutting edge research. Very accessible as well.
The summer also gave me some invaluable CPD. I am totally committed to my own CPD and my two most important CPD events were #mathsconf15 which took me to Manchester. A few days later I went to a maths CPD day on maths and Cognitive Science in London. The perfect compliment to all that CPD has been reading Mr. Barton’s “How I Wish I’d Taught Maths”.
How Wish I’d Taught Maths started off with a pizza meal
It is a phenomenal book, the best one to do with education that I have ever read. I am just over half way over it and I have learnt so many new things. I will be blogging about how this CPD has changed some of my tutoring practice. Already I can tell how it will make me a much better online maths tutor for all levels, primary, GCSE and A Level maths.
I was at university for around 11 years and in my mind the academic year starts when summer ends at the end of September (which is also near my birthday). The way I see it there is a little bit of summer still left and I am going to make the most of it 🙂
It is hard to believe that I was on my first maths conference on this day exactly one year ago. Before that I had never been to a maths CPD event in my life. In just one year I have now been to five La Salle events, #mathsconf15 being my third maths conference.
Friday night – “Take life’s experiences when they come to you”
The timing for #mathsconf15 was perfect. I had just finished a very busy tutoring season of teaching that week and this was a good time to reflect and refresh. I went to Manchester early on the Friday and met up with Daniel of Peak Tuition (@PeakTuition) for lunch. We had connected on video calls and on twitter but this was the first time we were to meet in person. After lunch I met up with fellow tutor Austin (@Lazyrunner78). We roamed around Manchester central and found Alan Turing’s statue surrounded by flowers. It was his birthday on conference day and this set the mood perfectly for the next day.
Alan Turnin’s statue in central Manchester.
We eventually got to the pre-conference drinks which were again absolutely brilliant. I met speakers and various teachers in a relaxed informal environment. Conference day itself is a fast roller coaster, so this was the perfect way to ease into it and meet others beforehand. The clock struck midnight and drinks had us all a bit hazy and happy. The war cry rang out from Mr Mattock and Mr Smith. “We are in Manchester, you only get a few chances in life like these so let’s explore the famous city nightlife”. Only a little arm twisting was required to convince us and so we went club hopping in Canal Lane dancing away to cheesy music. Though sensibly we stopped after a couple of clubs and went off to get a bit of sleep.
Maths is beautiful intro by Andrew Taylor of AQA
So what was the actual day like? The opening talk by Andrew Taylor of AQA introduced the hashtag #mathsisbeautiful What a great idea! Using images and music I personally want to show the links between maths, science and art. It is easy for most to see the beauty in the arts but with maths that art is hidden and implicit. So I hope to bring my take on this with that hashtag.
Simon Singh’s satanic hell and Simpson-e stuff
Pop and rock music culture has references to cryptic messages by artists when their songs are played backwards. From the Beatles to the Eagles with Hotel California and plenty of others. Simon Singh’s talk showed how this works for Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. Amazingly once we were told the lyrics backwards the mind had a curios way of getting meaning out of noise in a way that was really a surprise.
As Simon went through more of his stories and books, there was also mention of the term ‘Spherical bastards’ used by Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky as a term of insult to other astronomers in his field who he did not get along with. Someone who is a bastard no matter which way you look at them from. Zwicky was sure a grumpy one.
Simon showed a short video of Andrew Wile’s story on cracking Fermat’s last theorem. Maths can bring people to tears (the good type) and it is a passion we can all relate to. We’ve all missed meals as we were too busy solving maths problems. Andrew Wiles missed many and the moment he breaks down in tears to describe his journey was really authentic and touching.
Euler and Lisa Simpson.
Simon Singh then moved to The Simpsons as well amongst some of the projects he is working on to help maths students. I know a lot of maths tutor friends who want to volunteer at schools. Simon has the perfect opportunity for that in his Top Top Set maths project that I would recommend you check out.
This is the second time I heard Simon talk. Simon is a superb and highly engaging speaker. La Salle put the guest speaker talk in the middle of the day rather than at the start of the day. This helped break up the day a lot better I think.
So what were the workshops I chose like? There were several workshops happening on the day but since many of them ran in parallel we were limited to 4 workshops. Tough choices had to be made and these are the ones I chose.
Workshop 1 : Indices and the importance of SLOP (Shed loads of practice)
Indices in Depth workshop in the main hall
This was the first time I heard Jo Morgan (@mathsjem) talk. She’s an excellent presenter and had a lot of invaluable things to share on indices. Megan (@MeganGuinan1) covered her talk very well in a series of tweets, so that is also one place to go for a summary and key slides. Jo was very thorough with her research. She covered the importance of the topic comprehensively from the correct use of language, history of teaching indices, SLOP, examples of indices that would easily be suitable for GCSE students and a whole load of other indices goodies.
What I took away is that one must really sit with the indices topic for a while, until the language, process and meaning of indices makes clear sense to students. Through, conscious, deliberate practice. Rather than a one hour lesson, indices need more like 10 hours worth of lessons throughout the many years students have to get this one right. This could not be more true since I am finding that most of my A Level students get flummoxed when indices are inversed with Log operations.
It was also a relief for me that Jo confirmed what I thought all the time. Why don’t modern books have tons and tons of practice questions? 10 questions on one part of indices is not enough! I studied in the Indian system until the age of 15 and doing absolutely tons of questions per topic was the norm for me. It turned out that this was also done during the Victorian era in the UK as well. Jo called this simple idea SLOP – Shed loads of practice. Love that term.
There’s no way out of SLOP. SLOP is also needed in music practice, me and my ex-bandmate had a saying “Most of what happens in a band is so not rock ‘n roll”. What we meant was what every performing musician knows. At the start of learning a new cover (or original) song seemingly hours of mind-numbing practice have to be put in. We break down a song so meticulously into all its parts and slow the tempo down. At first this process kills the entire romance of the song. But once all the parts are nailed and put together a few times, at various tempos, the magic comes back to the song many folds. And that’s why maths feels so beautiful to mathematicians. The magic in maths happens after due diligence and practice has been given to it first.
Conscious, deliberate practice of indices when students first introduced to it
There was a lot in Jo’s talk and to cover it all would take a more comprehensive blog post of its own. Her workshop was confirmation of some of the things I already do and it also gave me loads of brand new things to think about.
Workshop 2 : EdTech tools and making maths digital
This talk and interactive presentation was given by Patrick McGrath (@TH_PatrickM) of Texthelp. There is no getting away from it. I am a tech geek and this was tech talk heaven for me. When choosing my workshops I restrained myself to attend just two presentations with an EdTech flavour. Patrick was clear from the outset that technology is only an aid to learning and ultimately teachers make the real learning happen. It was great to be reminded of this again.
BitPaper as an EdTech collaborative tool
He started off the session with a pretty cool interactive where he could create a poll with 4 responses and delegates could answer with their mobile phones. As the data streamed in you could get a real time view of what everyone thought. This reminded me of the Plickers I saw at a Google EdTech conference.
There were a range of digital learning aids that Patrick went through. Too many to keep track of so I have a big list to explore. More digital toys to play with! What stuck in my head were a range of tools with interactive videos. Whiteboard type apps where students could answer questions without needing to talk, really good for quiet students. A way in which students could also record short audio and screencast snippets to show how they did the working out of questions.
With whiteboards talk there was one that was mentioned that put a mile long smile on my face. BitPaper is the tool I use all day for hours on end with my students. It was so cool to see it being shown on there. It has been an absolute game changer in my maths tutoring. It has bought colour and interactivity to my online lessons in ways I never thought were ever possible.
Many new things for me to explore after this talk which I am looking forward to.
Workshop 3 : Mind the Gap. Making Stats (even more) interesting
Statistics seems to have a terrible reputation both in popular culture (There’s lies, more lies etc) and even among maths educators. Richard Tock (@TickTockMaths) took the challenge on to make it more interesting to us. I must admit that beyond S1 I find Stats pretty tricky too. As mathematicians we love the sense of having an exact, definitive, irrefutable answer. Stats seems to take us into new fuzzy land.
The winning maths cake
Florence Nightingale and her polar diagrams are an inspiration in the world of Stats. She bought clarity to how so much data can be crunched and presented in an elegant visual that can then be used to make real arguments based on data. Yet even I didn’t know about her commitment to Statistics until I saw the maths exhibition in London. There are no real modern Stats role models that I know of either except for the late Prof Hans Rosling. His visualisations blew me away when I first saw his talks on the BBC. And as someone who tutors both maths and Science, I really see that for Stats to have more meaning we must move it away from made up examples to real data.
One example is of normally distributed people living in a world of discrete sized t-shirts and never quite finding that perfect fit. It opens up a nice conversation on mass manufacturing methods vs tailor made clothes. Boltzmann first showed that gases have atoms shooting around at various speeds. With enough stats you can start making sense of it all and link the micro with the macro. Essentially the type of work I did in a software development team as an analyst helping build cost models of metal commodity prices. Both during my PhD and my job in commodities there was an enormous amount of data crunching, sorting and making sense of it all. So we can’t really escape Stats in the real world.
More winning. I won these books in a raffle!
Richard took us through a lot of the visualisations and examples that Prof Rosling used to have in his talks. I didn’t know you could download them from the gapminder site and have a play with them yourself. So this is something I will definitely explore.
Going back to visual stats displays, the other side of those displays are ones that are horribly inaccurate and completely misleading. Richard had plenty of examples of that from tabloids for example. He also went through the Large Data Set examples of various boards.
I am glad that I took a chance on this talk. Many of my friends work in data related jobs so I will prod them and get some ideas from them too.
Workshop 4 : Geogebra and the attack of the z axis dinasour
This workshop was given by Leona So (@lwyso). Choosing this one was a close call between choosing this one or the Desmos one. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit to all my techy tutor friends that I have never had a play with Geogebra. One reason for that is clear, it is not as intuitive as Desmos (for the simple stuff anyway). Geogebra is a complex tool with which you can do a phenomenal amount. I have used interactive tools made on it to explore circle theorems for example but have never actually made anything on it myself.
Surfing the curve with Geogebra
Leona took us through various examples live. Putting a gradient on a curve and surfing along the curve to see how the gradient changed. She extended that idea to show differentiation from first principles as well. Continuing with tangents, she showed how the derivative function can be plotted alongside the original function. Cubics lead to quadratics and quadratics lead to linear ones. All stuff that we know but to see it live gave new life to it. “Students like to see moving things” and that’s certainly true for me too.
To finish off the talk she got us all to wear 3D glasses and showed equations of lines and planes in 3D. It was like being at a 3D cinema. Instead of being attacked by dinosaurs I was being attacked by the z axis that seemed to be protruding out of the board and into the classroom. What a way to finish the last session of the last day! There was a lot to cover in the session and inevitably it was hard to replicate all the demos on our own computers at the same time. To do that would have taken a lot longer so I am glad there was a good snapshot of all the cool stuff compressed into a short workshop. Fluency in Geogebra will add a great tool to both my online A Level maths tutoring and for GCSE as well.
Now I have no excuse to explore Geogebra a lot more.
I am in awe of some of the top teachers, resource makers and relentless hard workers who make these conferences happen. It gives me great hope that with such dedicated educators we do have control on how we deliver maths education in the UK and spread the knowledge of this beautiful subject.
The awesome tutors of the Maths Tutors UK collective
Thanks to La Salle for putting on the whole show. This was easily my most favorite conference of the three I have been to so far. I am a member of CompleteMaths and for the CPD alone it is worth it for me. The conference is very affordable thanks to some sponsorship from AQA. I cannot recommend these conferences to teacher and tutor friends enough. Get yourself booked up to the next maths conferences, they have dates all over the UK for the next two years. To echo what a wise man once said “Take life’s experiences when they come to you”.
Electrolysis seems to be one of the topics that comes up top during my online Chemistry tutoring sessions. So I am starting a short series of blog posts just on this topic aimed at GCSE students. Firstly, we must ask what the meaning of Electrolysis is:
Electro – broadly speaking to do with electricity and the flow of electrons.
lysis – breaking down, decomposing, loosening etc.
What we did there was to break up the word into its components. Well, that is not too far from the very process of electrolysis itself! Thanks to electricity we were able to discover elements that we previously had no idea that existed. The periodic table grew pretty fast due to this.
So thinking in terms of simple metal -non metal compounds, electrolysis simply reverses the process of ionic bonding and breaks the compound into the original elements it was formed from. This is only possible through a flow of electrons in a circuit, which is provided by the cell.
Seeing is believing so here is a short video that shows solid lead bromide melted under some intense heat and then given the electrolysis treatment.
It has been a good 3 months since I posted a blog post about how my tutoring is going. To me the tutoring year ends in mid to late June when I am finishing off with the very last students of the year. I gather my thoughts then and sum up the academic year like I did for the 2015-2016 year.
But this summer I wasn’t able to post that summary. In July I was given notice to move out of my flat in central London so I had a frantic month of looking for a new place and packing. So now is a good time to reflect on all of 2017 covering the two academic years and everything in between.
On 22 November 2016 I attended The Profs Christmas party and #christmaths2016 on the same evening. Attending both these events set the scene up for me in 2017 like I would never have anticipated at the time.
Online tutoring – Here comes the world
I want to see some of that Californian sunshine, can you give me a tour of what it’s like around where you live?
The last student of my day was a 7pm one in San Francisco. It was still the morning for her and she was in good chirpy spirits. On a tall building in that city she showed me the view of San Francisco, a vast expanse soaked with glorious morning sunshine. It was cold and dark in London and somehow the bright vivid sunshine, even via camera really felt enlivening. Online tutoring really amazes when I connect to far flung reaches of the world in real time. I still can’t believe it sometimes! This year I have added even more exotic locations to my overseas tutoring. Indonesia, St. Kitts island, India and Bermuda come to mind straightaway.
A picture of the volcano in Bali sent to me by a client there.
The decision to go all online and cut out face to face tutoring was a real business gamble and in April this year I got proof that it well and truly paid off. With Dyscalculia and IB I am heading towards a more international and borderless type of tutoring.
This year has seen me take on a lot more Dyscalculia students. I have now got two years of experience in this very special field. It turns out to be a really complex area of tutoring and I have learnt to treat it very differently to tutoring any other subject. The Dyscalculia spectrum is very wide and yet it has such little public awareness as a word.
My graphics tablet.
It is incredibly rewarding to tutor it as students make progress and do things they never previously thought was possible. I have invested a lot in learning about this more and more ; buying books, manipulatives, emailing the known experts, asking one of them to be my mentor and attending any training that I can afford to attend. To make my online tutoring even better I have invested in a document camera. I remain committed to tutoring for Dyscalculia and will be blogging specially on this in the coming months.
Tutoring younger children
Another big change this year is that I have started tutoring children as young as 9. Previously I would rarely tutor children younger than 12. But I felt I could make a big difference to children at a younger age and I wanted to learn how younger children learn, especially online.
It has been a really rewarding experience tutoring maths at that age and level. I can feel it is already making me a much better tutor and person. Younger children really love the vivid colours of BitPaper and they are so comfortable with technology online too.
A lovely Christmas message by a 9 year old student for me #drawnonbitpaper
BitPaper and The Profs
I don’t think anyone following me on any form of social media can escape my enthusiasm for BitPaper. Neither could BitPaper, so they recently added me to their team and I now also work for them. BitPaper is virtual interactive paper. I can write paragraphs on BitPaper but will save that for when I am blogging for them.
BitPaper tutoring session.
Are you The Profs guy as well? Ahhh Richard has the same surname as you, that makes sense now!
I was chatting to Leo on Facebook messenger in March 2017 about BitPaper. Attending that Profs Christmas party in November 2016 I had met one of the founders of the company Richard. Leo and Richard shared incredible enthusiasm for tutoring communities such as the maths group, the global online tutors group and the empowerment of tutors and the tutoring industry in general. It really is going to be onwards and upwards as I collaborate ever deeper with their projects in 2018.
Tutor communities : Meetups, Facebook and video calls (Indie Tutors)
There was no independent community of tutors back in early 2016. By mid 2016 they exploded into existence and connected previously alone and isolated tutors for the for the time ever in history. I was given the Maths Tutors UK Facebook group to run in August 2016 and in 2017 it has spun off several groups including the two official sister groups Science Tutors UK and English Tutors UK.
Tutor meetup in London Hyde Park.
Networking and bringing people together has always been my thing and with these groups I got a lot more active on tutor meetups. I arranged more regular meetups in 2017, and the summer Hyde Park ones were a real hit. The one on this photo has us listening to legendary 80s band Tears for Fears playing literally next to us while we talk tutoring, bless.
Facebook has its limitations in terms of CPD and networking. And real life meetups aren’t practical for everyone purely due to geography. I found an elegant solution around this inspired by online tutoring. Weekly online meetings on group video calls! For all of 2017 me and my good friend Henry Dingle have been running highly focused one hour weekly video calls for tutors based on various tutoring issues. We have started up Indie Tutors to facilitate this more and as we get even more focused we really hope to help the tutoring industry in ways that has never happened before.
Maths training workshops and CPD
Thanks to the tutoring communities and the #christmaths2016 I attended late last year I found an incredible community of maths teacher training in the UK. Many tutors also teach at schools and I found a teaching community on twitter. The biggest discovery for me has to be La Salle Education. A really incredible maths training company.
Algebra tiles training at La Salle workshop.
I have attended two of their conferences and blogged about #mathsconf10 (my first ever maths conference) and #mathsconf13. I also attended two of their workshops in London. I have learnt so much from that community about teaching maths.
I got more CPD in 2017 than in the combined 10 years of solo tutoring I did before. And I have found a really supportive community of people in maths education in the UK. I plan to attend more events and encourage tutors to go to these too.
Other golden moments of 2017
I was awarded The Profs online tutors of 2017 award at their summer party. This came as a surprise to me as they have a few hundred tutors! I now have a physical tutoring award.
I didn’t know these even existed as a previously lonely tutor. I also got featured as a guest blogger on the How to Tutor Online site, and Joanne from the Ultimate Online Support Group awarded me with membership to one of her groups.
Winning the Online Tutor of 2017 award by The Profs
When 2017 started I couldn’t have dreamt of so much growth in my own personal tutoring career. And the opportunities bought about by networking with The Profs, various groups on Facebook, tutors I meet in real life, my clients themselves, maths teachers I have met and many others. I can’t wait for what 2018 has in store.
Sheffield, maths teachers at the pub, stand-up maths, a calculator cake, lots of new connections and of course the invaluable CPD of the conference, #mathsconf13 did not disappoint.
I stumbled into La Salle by first going to the London #mathsconf10 earlier in the summer this year. I was mindblown by that first conference and ended up attending their MTN event in London and went to a workshop last week. The network of teachers, resource creators, examiners, speakers etc. they have got together is very impressive. And the value of such events is not just what you hear at the workshops but from meeting those in the front line of education.
Planning to go to the conference and making time for it Unlike the London conference which was on my doorstep in East London this one needed more planning. I booked my train and hotel for the Friday night and I moved my Saturday students to Sunday instead. I even tutored my Friday evening students from the hotel room in Sheffield. I like to keep things rolling along as regularly as I can for students and lost hours are lost income for the self employed.
#mathsconf13 in Sheffield. Intro talk on two floors.
Pub time with teachers and two birthdays to celebrate! Sometimes things just align in unexpected ways. The Friday night before the conference was my birthday. And the day before was the birthday of my good friend Richard Glasgodine (@RGMathsTutor) a fellow maths tutor and all round enthusiast of all things tech and Engineering. We had talked on video several times and known each other on social media so it was so cool to meet him in person. By coincidence it was his birthday the day before so we had lots to celebrate.
Double birthday celebration!
The theme of meeting real people from social media continued all through the night. Gone are the days of exchanging business cards, all the maths teachers there were on twitter. Seriously if you are not on twitter you must get on to it, it’s where pretty much where the maths teaching CPD action is.
I was glad to meet Jonathan Hall (@studymaths) who runs the mathsbot site. I have used his site extensively over the last months after I learnt how to use Algebra tiles at a short workshop that Mark McCourt (@emaths) ran in July this year. I was also nicknamed “Algebra Tiles Man”! I am nowhere near having that title as I have only just started using these and mostly with positive numbers.
Throughout the night I met more and more teachers, we chatted all sorts of things from my experience of online tutoring, to theirs of class teaching and exchanged teaching ideas. I got to know a lot of teachers before the Saturday in a relaxed setting and this really set the scene up for the all important conference the following day.
Intro by emaths, AQA, keynote stand up maths talk and speed dating A packed school main hall with two floors of 400 maths teachers from all over the UK. Mark McCourt (@emaths) who runs La Salle introduced us all to the conference and set the scene. This was followed shortly by Andrew Taylor from AQA maths who gave us some insights on post 16 maths options. And then we had the keynote by Matt Parker (@standupmaths) who I had never heard of before but is clearly a really funny and smart maths speaker.
Superb at holding a large audience, keeping us all intrigued and with a quirky sense of comedy in maths he kept us all hooked to his every word. He showed a fair bit of maths magic to us, ranging from fractal cubes to all sorts of number trickery. The centerpiece of his talk was the thing us maths teachers love, spreadsheets! He zoomed out of a spreadsheet into a pixelated picture, and showed us how all RGB pictures are really just spreadsheets. He even took a picture of himself with the audience and then observed the phone screen under a microscope to reveal the RGB pixels. Not only that but he’s written code to transpose the image into an actual spreadsheet. Honestly, I loved spreadsheets before but now I see them in a different light 🙂
The speed dating was a quick 2 minute chat to exchange teaching ideas with teachers. I used folding paper with fractions and learnt some things about a functional skills volume exercise.
Maths Tutors UK group tutors unite and meet in person for the first time.
Workshop 1: Making Maths Work in Science
This workshop was given by Luke Graham (@bettermaths) who I have seen host maths chats on twitter. As I tutor the Sciences (up to GCSE and Physics A Level) I was curios to know what was going to come up on this. Luke had sat in many Science lessons at A level and GCSE to understand the maths content in there. We looked at some questions on estimating populations using quadrat sampling. An example being used was of white painted snails. Then to think beyond the simple assumptions to refine the model and getting students to ask “What if?” questions like what if the white painted snails are more likely to be eaten by predators. Punnet square genetic diagrams were shown to be essentially like quadratics. I’ve always likened them to grid multiplication so it was great to hear this.
And there was some great A level Chemistry content to do with Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution curves. These are essentially normal distribution curves in action. The cut off in the curves can be used to explain things like rates of reaction. This is a really great application of normal curves so this gives me a new idea to use in my teaching. All in all an inspiring talk for me, there was some elegant A Level Science/maths crossover that I had not thought about for a while.
Workshop 2: Richard Skemp: Relational Understanding & Instructional Understanding
I had met the speaker of this talk Gordon Brough (@gordon_brough) at a Bar Modelling workshop and had also been following him on twitter before. I first heard about the formalised idea of relational and instructional understanding through previous La Salle events. It was reassuring to confirm what has come naturally in tutoring. A lot of the time you just need to get students fluent in using certain techniques (a rote type of learning) and then later explain why it works. Or with some students you can start with the “why?” straightaway. The approach I take is customised to individual tutees and varies on a case by case basis.
Lots of food for thought after that talk and something I will think about in the coming few days.
Different maths teaching scenarios
Workshop 3: Patterns, primes and purposeful practice
This talk was by Jonathan Hall aka @mathsbot He had already asked me what 8.5^2 was in the pub the night before so I was curios to know what shortcut he had. Turned out that (x+0.5)^2 can be used to make a simple rule to find this. This certainly looked like an impressive trick and had me hooked. I really liked his philosophy that it is important to spend a couple of minutes to do something interesting that will engage students before diving into content. There were plenty of other number tricks in there including prime diagonals and happy numbers. A visually impressive piece was the demo of a Serpinksi triangle animation followed by a “Chaos game” which would recreate the triangle with a multitude of dots.
Besides all the number stuff, he also went through his mathsbot site in some detail including all the virtual manipulatives that I use with my students. All in all a very impressive showcase of what he does, showing both breadth and depth in his material. I am a big fan of his site and I recommend others have a look at it too.
The resourceful Mr. Corbett.
Workshop 4: Interactive Problem-Solving Models
My last workshop was given by Matt Dunbar (@MathsDunbar). This involved us actually doing some maths as we were all given an A4 sheet with blank spaces as part of interactive problem solving questions from an interactive spreadsheet. There was linear algebra in more gneral form, probability using cuisenaire rods, a vector grid and finally an impressive exercise using a circle in 36 parts.
Matt Dunbar had a custom made interactive spreadsheet where inputs can be changed to see the output and the other way round. There’s even circle geometry possible on there. We all got a copy of his spreadsheets and I look forward to trialling them out and having a play. Even as the last talk of the day it sure kept us engaged, and on our toes!
In addition to the workshops there were plenty of stands by suppliers for books. I was most interested in some of the online book platforms so I will possibly sign up to even more online ebooks. I was also glad to meet Corbett who has produced some superb resources for GCSE maths. That was definitely a fan moment for me. One of many fan moments that day.
Maths cake competition. The Classwiz calculator cake won.
New things I learn get passed on globally as a third of my students are currently in many countries, typically going to British schools in Asia, the middle East and mainland Europe. What I learn from La Salle gets beamed across the world and to my students. I am learning ever new ways of teaching things and being more aware of the methods gives me increased confidence in teaching new things. The maths teaching community is ever so supportive and diverse. Despite 7 days a week of maths during these last two weeks, I find the conference refreshing and a blast of inspiration. The next conference #mathsconf14 is all the way in March which seems like an eternity from now. I could certainly do with the time to start implementing more of the things I have taken away from the two conferences this year. So I wait eagerly for March 2018 and the next La Salle conference.
The grassroots Indie tutors community in London is growing! Working for yourself as an independent tutor can be a lonely job and even if you put all your effort into providing the best possible service, it is always invaluable to know how others manage the teaching and business part of their tutoring.
Typically we discuss things like tutoring rates, how to get new work using The Tutor Pages or otherwise, websites, cancellation policies, the best agencies, and I am happy to offer my advice as a full time online tutor for those considering starting out in that market.
This is open to all tutors, independent or tutoring for an agency. The Larrik Pub is a well lit airy gasto pub which does snacks, food and drinks. Nearest tube Edgware Road, Marylebone or Baker Street.
Looking forward to meeting you and feel free to contact me if you want more info or to let me know you are coming 🙂
Cake, workshops, ideas from examination boards, new connections, free books and so much more. Here’s some thoughts on my first maths conference.
Maths and cake. A yummy combination.
Saturday morning on a London bus in Dagenham and all alone I was wondering if I am even supposed to be going to this conference as a private tutor. It was after all a classroom teachers’ event and I was feeling like a fish out of water on my way there. Luckily the active maths teaching community on twitter and teachers I know on the Maths Tutors UK Facebook group had encouraged me to go (with cake promised nonetheless). So I booked my ticket without knowing anyone else in person who was going. And what a superb decision that turned out to be!
I arrived into a huge hall of teachers and met someone I knew through the Facebook group, we had chatted before online so it was easy to get chatting in person. Even if I had known no one at all the maths conference had the perfect ice breaker with the “mathematical speed dating” later on. More on that in a bit.
Meeting up for the first time, the Maths Tutors UK gang.
The opening introductory talk was by Mark McCourt of La Salle education who organised this event. He mentioned that these conferences have only been going for 3 years, and are sponsored by AQA so they can be very cheap (my ticket was £26.87 with VAT). The idea being that it is the teachers who know best how to tackle education in this country and this is a platform to bring everyone together. One big thing he said at the start stuck with me all day:
Education is UK’s 5th largest export.
I have first hand experience of this and my tutoring business is now part of that statistic. Last year I decided to tutor all online to cut out my commute and be able to reach my Yorkshire clients without the long train journeys. To my surprise I started getting enquiries from parents in the US, India, Singapore, Malaysia, UAE and Bahrain. Some were British families abroad sending their children to British schools but many others simply chose British schools. My clients have such respect for the British education system, they equate it to a certain level of sophistication and elegance that we often don’t realise it being here in the U.K., which is also a point Mark McCourt made. My dad worked in the Indian embassy and he persuaded his senior officers to have me entered me into Braeburn primary school in Nairobi, Kenya when I was 5 years old.
The mathematical speed dating was a 2 mins session with another teacher/educator in the room. On the date you had to discuss your favourite teaching ideas and there were 4 such dates. I learnt about a puzzles book a teacher has written, the Irish education system (a teacher had travelled from Ireland to be at that conference) and a teacher who had recently been to schools in China. I exchanged ideas on how I tutor online, Dyscalculia and my “meaning of pi” experiment. The teachers had such great enthusiasm for what they do and new things they wanted to learn and share. The speed dating got me socially relaxed and ready for a full day’s worth of workshops and socialising.
Lunch time at mathsconf10.
There were 5 workshops to choose from out of 22 that were running on the day. I wish I could have chosen all 22 so going down to just 5 was a tough choice.
My first workshop was run by the chief of examiners for the AQA board for A Level on mathematical proof and notation. I was truly surprised when he pulled out a SURD rationalising the denominator question. It could be legitimately all done by typing it on the calculator and hitting the answer button to score all the marks as it was not a “show that” question. There is an increased emphasis on the use of calculators for the new A Level AQA spec. Unless of course questions explicitly ask for “show that” type proof which requires full rigour of explaining. As it happens there was a discussion going on the use of calculators on the Maths Tutors UK group on the same day. In that moment I realised the value of being right in front of a chief examiner for a board to discuss this. This was coming straight from the horse’s mouth. And it was an open discussion too so if there was anywhere I could best learn about this or let my thoughts known to the board, this was the only place to be.
Concrete material to play with.
My second workshop was run on bar models for algebra and number work. This was Christmas to me as I’ve been tutoring Dyscalculia students for a year and I’m hungry for ideas on this. There were concrete materials like numicon, cubes, counters and strips of paper. I was amazed on how differently you can approach algebra in the earlier years before introducing it an abstract manner later on. This type of bridging material is exactly what I need for my Dyscalculia teenage students. I will be attending another workshop by the same speaker in London later in July again.
My third workshop was on a new qualification by AQA called Core maths. I had taken a punt on this one as I had no idea what this workshop was going to be. This turned out to be about a ton of real world maths, calculations on loans, taxes, inflation etc., Stuff that could be taught on the actual GCSE. The presenter showed a number of student responses on a task called “Why Santa Claus is not real?” with some creative calculations by students. This seems like a very useful practical maths qualification.
My fourth workshop was all about tech in the classroom and digital resources. An enigmatic retired teacher was totally down with the tech. He took us to Melbourne airport on Google maps and showed us that you can actually see cross-sectional views of the runway with gradient data. We traveled to the pentagon building as well. I was so happy to see him use the Wacom graphics tablet that I use in my own tutoring. He also had some very cool graphing software and some very clever uses of spreadsheets. His workshop alone has filled my head with numerous ideas and I’ll slowly be implementing these with my students.
My fifth and final workshop was about reasoning and problem solving. The teacher showed some innovative ideas on the correct use of language and the idea of problem solving through creative brainstorming and questioning. By applying those techniques she had improved the scores of her set of students very well. What a skill to be able to influence so many students so effectively. By my fifth workshop my brain was overloaded already and I took as much note as I could for teaching KS3 and KS4 material.
Free books. Thank you CGP 🙂
Between the five sessions there was lunch and the odd short break. The highlight of lunch has to be the cake competition with a whole array of wonderful maths themed cakes. I knew two teachers from the Facebook group so I had two large slices of their cakes. I was buzzing on sugar now too.
There were also several stands from suppliers and publishers. As if the day didn’t have enough value already, I then got hold of the brand new A Level maths textbooks from CGP for the new syllabus for free! The books are absolutely invaluable to me and I am one happy bunny now.
The day closed with Mark McCourt on the main stage again and some drinks outside. Working as a tutor can be a lonely affair and no matter how good you think you are doing with your tutoring it is impossible to shake that feeling off that you know you need CPD and could be doing a better job. After 11 years of tutoring, 9 of them without knowing any other tutors I was so relieved to have gotten CPD at this conference. I have attended short training courses before but this was truly on another scale and level. I met many teachers and exchanged ideas from my world of 1-on-1 work with their inspiring work in the classroom. As a tutor one can often feel in the periphery of the education system. I now truly feel connected to the heart of the teaching ecosystem.
It was an intense roller coaster of a day which went very fast and there was so much to absorb. I have returned with tons of goodies, subscriptions, contacts and I’m still processing many things from the day. I now genuinely feel like a better, more rounded tutor and am raring to try new ideas with my students. I’ve also got the maths conference bug, so I will be going to a few more of these now 🙂 I urge all my maths tutor friends to attend future events like these. Thank you La Salle.
As part of GCSE Physics students learn the idea of an object that reaches terminal velocity when it is moving in a fluid. A great demonstration of this idea is through the example of objects in free fall. And what better object to think this idea through than a skydiver!
The embedded video bring this idea to life. Velocity values of an actual skydiver are given through the different phases of the journey. Right at the very start when the diver jumps off, the weight is the only force acting on the vertical plane. By using Newton’s 2nd law you can work out that the acceleration is all due to gravity at that point. As the diver gains speed due to this acceleration, the air resistance (or drag) also increases. Now the resultant force downwards is smaller and so is the acceleration. Nonetheless there is acceleration downwards and the velocity is still increasing. Eventually the drag increases so much that it is enough to counteract the weight. At this point the forces are balanced and the acceleration is zero. But by this point the diver has a substantial velocity. As such the diver will continue in free fall at a constant velocity. This is what is known as the terminal velocity.
Once the parachute is deployed, the drag increases and the resultant force is now upwards as the drag is more than the weight. This causes deceleration. At the same time the reduced velocity decreases the drag. But there is still deceleration so the diver keeps slowing down. Until the point when the drag is once again equal to the weight. The diver then reaches a second terminal velocity.
This is all explained in the video as well. So hit play on the video and be taken on a skydiving ride joined up with Physics revision. Good luck to all the Physics students taking their exams tomorrow.