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    • One of my favourite aspects of working in education is giving up my weekends and presenting at Grassroots Conferences.

      I would like to think my workshops are truly unique. My starting point is writing a session that I would love to attend. I don't have to support exam syllabuses or even worry if anyone turns up.

      I think the last conference I did I wanted to share Dan's Prime Climb with 40 teachers, Dan helped me out with some great ideas. I then changed my mind... I wanted 40 teachers to play Prime Climb. This still has an element of sense until you realise I'd already written a different workshop weeks before and I was going to scrap it and personally make 20 Prime Climb set with a couple of day before the conference.

    • Here is a problem that opens "Math Recess"...

      When I go into classrooms, the Birthday Puzzle, is one of the first ones I open with--for many reasons. Who isn't going to be intrigued by how a "stranger" is correctly guessing everyone's birthdays by some "box-pointing"...

      I show the image below on a screen. I then ask students to find their birthday date--day only(ie, 07, 23, 29, etc) on as many cards they can. Once they have done that, I ask them to tell me which ones they found their birthday on. In about a few seconds, I tell them their birthday...

      I do this in rapid fire succession, not even blinking to capture the astonishment/disbelief on the faces of the students.

      The natural question comes up--HOW are you doing this?

      I ask..."Do you REALLY want to know"?

      Because the response is organic and overwhelming, I don't just give them the superficial answer of looking at the top left binary numbers. I tell them how this works, and for them to construct their own cards!

      This also creates a rabbit hole into Base 2, and other great Base 2 problems, which in turn creates further rabbit holes of playing in different bases...

      And so on...

      We want to create the "So On's"...:)

    • You'll probably have noticed that I haven't mentioned how to make maths fun!

      Maths is fun! Every teacher I meet knows how to deliver fun maths lessons.

      Unfortunately teaching in England is driven by passing tests rather than educating children.

      English schoolchildren undergo a range of tests from the age of five to 18:

      * Age five: Teachers assess children's all-round development against Early Years Foundation Stage profile

      * Age seven: Key Stage One standard assessment tests assess pupils in the "Three Rs"

      * Age nine: Key Stage One standard assessment tests assess pupils in the "Three Rs"

      * Age 11: Key Stage Two sats tests pupils in English & Maths

      * Age 16: GCSEs test pupils, typically in eight to 12 subjects.

      * Age 17/18: AS and A Levels test pupils in three to six subjects.

      If a school fails to attain aggressive targets the school will be shamed and loose all its funding.

      This maybe wouldn't be all bad if the maths curriculum wasn't completely focused on the skill sets needed for success in the late 19th Century.

      Teachers do have the flexibility to teach great maths lessons once they have ticked these boxes.

    • Drew, we’ve talked privately about the incredible work you’ve done in making mathematics more engaging, fun and meaningful for your students. Could you talk about how edtech fits into this equation? Perhaps you could share a video of what this looks like in action.

    • I love self paced learning. This was a live lesson that the students had never been taught before. The video gives an impression that I was lucky to have one of those classes that are always well behaved, this is far from the truth. There is one wonderful student in the class that was transferring to a special school as he/she was autistic with moderate to severe learning difficulties. The student was working over 4 years below his/her chronological age at the start of the year.

      The student nearly lost his/her place at a wonderful school for autism as he/she had made four years progress in my class in 10 months.

    • I should mention that I am completely biased about the resources as I had innovated this system of learner response and had written the entire website. I was honoured to work directly with the designer and the team of developers.

    • This video was earlier 2010... long before Menti came into existence

      Unlike the other video this is a completely independent production for a sponsored government TV channel, TeachersTV (yes, that was a thing in the UK). The producer and director and the crew travelled 250 miles to Preston, Lancashire to record this.

      It came about when the producers had sent out emails to schools in England enquiring about introducing innovative EdTech in lessons. My film was the case study of best practice.

      This was a real lesson and took about 90 minutes to film.

    • I should mention that I am completely biased about the resources as I had innovated this system of learner response and had written the entire website. I was honoured to work directly with the designer and the team of developers.

      Drew, I know this is a bit off-topic and that we’re wrapping up our conversation in the next few hours or so. But from being involved in learning system implementations, I know that it takes a rare set of skills to be the subject matter expert (SME) on a project and to effectively communicate with the design/development team and other key stakeholders. What do you feel is the biggest hurdle to creating a successful edtech solution?

    • My solution to this problem is to grab the whole team (usually 4 to 6 developers, a designer and the project MD) and teach them the lesson I would teach to students.

      It is fascinating when you just get up there at the IWB and teach the team old school. It could be anything from number bonds to quadratic equations.

      Can you imagine teaching a class that are at first are struggling to learn some very elementary maths but then once the have understood the concepts start firing questions at you about what range of algorithms they need to put into the coding.

      Once the team have learnt all the principles of the lesson it will move onto a session where i ask them about complexities of the coding. I'll be explaining how I want 7 year olds to input the answer for a simple shape & space question... I'll then ask whether this will introduce any coding issues. At this point it will then enter a sort of horse whispering scenario, if all the developers are all doing head tilts you know you have to look for alternatives.

      You will be offering different input solutions/algorithms until they suddenly smile and say something incomprehensible between themselves... lots of mentions of java, swift, active scripts, C++, android stroke, iOS and other weird techy phrases.

      About 10 days later the maths activity will be published internally with all the art work ready for final testing and after a couple of bugs are ironed out, the maths activity will be ready to go live on the internet.

    • I think the way the team developed content for Learning Clip was pretty unique. I was teaching full time so my MD would collect me after lessons once a week.

      We would then drive over to the developers (on some business park near Chorley) and the entire team would come into the conference room. My MD would give me a list of activities that was on the curriculum plan (which I'd written months before) and I'd would just describe what I wanted for 6 to 10 activities. Give level algorithms, explain to the designer the theme etc. You have never seen people scribbling so fast... two MDs, the expert developers and the designers all getting the design for online activities.

      I would be dropped off back at school and cycle home.

    • Hi Dan, I completely agree. I love your idea that teachers shouldn't be the purveyors of answers! As you know I'm a complete fanboy and feel privileged to be on a panel with you.

    • I'd forgotten about this tragedy! It's inspiring how you turned this around.

      I love your work and "Pi of Life" resonated strongly with my own (not fully formed) opinions on education. Your work as an educational DISRUPTOR could be incredibly powerful in the North of England.

      There are strong groups of DISRUPTERS in England, gathering on social media, and creating their own grassroots conferences.

      We could really need voices like yours to help lead the way.

      I have 90 teachers giving up their weekends and creating their own CPD. Inspirational educators presenting for free and everyone paying their own expenses. This may be happening the world over but I'm proud to part of a group of fabulous educators that are so passionate about teaching.

    • Well thats it, I could say something profane but instead here's a nice maths problem from the first British recreational maths fan... Alcuin of York (735 - 804 AD)

    • Little Hoole Primary is a good school with outstanding features. It provides good value for money. Parents have positive views of the school and one described it as a place where ‘children grow in self-esteem’. They praise the teachers who they say are ‘committed and approachable’ and the wide range of activities on offer. A strong sense of pride in the school is shared between adults and pupils and it has a very good reputation within the local area.

      Drew, you clearly were doing great work there as head teacher, creating an outstanding environment of student learning, self-esteem and achievement. The videos you’ve shared today show the tireless efforts you’ve made to make learning fun and enjoyable through the effective use of edtech.

      So let’s do a wrap up of highlights and key takeaways from our panel conversation.


      We started our conversation on the question of “How do you make Maths Fun?

      Dan shared a framework for creating an environment where children can have an authentic experience with maths. Allowing students to have productive struggles and to reflect on their learning helps to create these authentic experiences. The focus should be on how and why a child chose to follow a particular solution, instead of on whether they got the right answer.

      We then took a tangent and talked about problem solving and determining the problems that you shouldn’t invest time solving. Dan shared how he used Kickstarter campaign feedback to make the right decision with his games Prime Climb and Tiny Polka Dots.

      Back to making maths fun, Dan provided suggestions, such as “tell me what you know,” to make math explorations an enjoyable activity for toddlers.

      Sunil shared his journey from math teacher to education disruptor. His key insight, on the limits to bringing fun into the current maths classroom, bears repeating:

      Students--and teachers--need space and time to dabble in math. I am not sure why we feel everything needs closure after 45 minutes everyday. Why can't we give problems that stretch out for longer periods of inquiry--just like in the real world of mathematics. Solutions are punctuation marks. We need more emphasis on the "drafts", the shards of thoughts, coherent or not, by students.

      Drew joined in from the UK and was kind enough to share some of the recreational maths puzzles he creates. I highly recommend spending some time on “productive struggle.”

      Drew and I then took a detour, discussing how he works with designers and developers to create effective edtech solutions.

      Of course, you can’t have a panel of maths educators without a discussion on the challenges of providing meaningful maths education. It’s an uphill battle to make lasting changes in education, but all of our panelists are doing their utmost to bring mathematical joy to students.

      Thank you, thank you, thank you

      I want to first thank all of our panelists for allowing me to moderate this panel. It was an idea hatched on a Tuesday night on Twitter, and they all embraced the idea of an online panel to discuss a question of importance to all of us. Thank you to all for a panel conversation that exceeded my wildest expectations.

      And a special thank you to everyone at Cake— @Chris , @Vilen and @yaypie—for building an incredible platform for amazing conversations!