BCME 9 Plenary Speakers

Opening Plenary - David Spiegelhalter

3 April 2018, 1330-1500


Title: Teaching Probability and Statistics in the Age of Data Science and Fake News.

Abstract: Future society will require people to both have the ability to draw sensible conclusions from data, and to have complementary skills to critique data-based claims made by others.  There are growing resources becoming available to train doctors, journalists, lawyers and the public in 'data literacy' and these can be an inspiration for continuing post-16 provision such as Core Maths. But there are challenges for traditional mathematics education, since these are areas in which there is no 'right' answer.

Bio: David Spiegelhalter is Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk and Fellow of Churchill College at Cambridge University, and as Chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, he works to improve the way in which risk and statistical evidence are taught and discussed in society. He gives many presentations to schools and others, advises organisations on risk communication, and is a regular commentator on risk issues. He presented the BBC4 documentaries ‘Tails you Win: the Science of Chance’ and the award-winning ‘Climate Change by Numbers’. He was elected FRS in 2005, awarded an OBE in 2006, and was knighted in 2014 for services to medical statistics. For 2017-2018 he is President of the Royal Statistical Society. In 2011 he came 7 th in an episode of Winter Wipeout.


Plenary Panel - Chair Alison Clark-Wilson 

3 April 2018, 1930-2030

Title: Mathematics teachers working and learning through collaboration – What works?

Teachers learn about the craft of teaching mathematics in a diversity of ways, which begin during initial teacher education and then involve a range of professional development activities in and out of school/college settings. Some of these activities might be described as ‘collaborative’ - but what exactly do we mean by this? And what forms of collaborative work involving teachers actually lead to meaningful developments in teaching and learning? These themes will be explored during a panel session, chaired by Dr Alison Clark-Wilson and involving four different speakers with a variety of perspectives and experiences.

Panel (select the below text to read the panel member bios):

Plenary - MA Presidential Address - Tom Roper

4 April 2018, 1140-1240

Title: Adventures in Shape and Space

TMAbstract: I became interested in mathematics because of a fascination with Euclidean and coordinate geometry, But geometry, as in shape and space, means so much more, especially in other subjects. We will begin our adventures with the theorem that small mammals are covered in fur or eat a lot or both, and continue into other subjects to illustrate that mathematics should not be a subject in isolation but one that reaches out to many other subjects in the curriculum as well as our daily lives.

Bio: Tom spent 17 years teaching mathematics in a variety of secondary schools, in two as head of department, before moving to the University of Leeds as a PGCE tutor. He retired as Head of the School of Education at Leeds in December 2010. During his time at Leeds he was heavily involved in the Mechanics in Action Project, taught mathematics and mechanics to first year physicists, ran one of the Pathways in Mathematics Projects and wrote over half the videos for the on-line mathematics tutorial project, math tutor. He has been a Holgate Lecturer for the LMS, given masterclasses and delivered workshops and talks in schools. His current interests are applications of mathematics in other subjects and sunflowers.

 Plenary - Vicky Neale 

4 April 2018, 1930-2030


Title: Closing the Gap: the quest to understand prime numbers

Abstract: Prime numbers have intrigued, inspired and infuriated mathematicians for millennia and yet mathematicians' difficulty with answering simple questions about them reveals their depth and subtlety.

Join Vicky to learn about recent progress towards proving the famous Twin Primes Conjecture and to hear the very different ways in which these breakthroughs have been made -- a solo mathematician working in isolation, a young mathematician displaying creativity at the start of a career, and a large collaboration that reveals much about how mathematicians go about their work.

Bio: Vicky Neale is the Whitehead Lecturer at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford and a Supernumerary Fellow at Balliol College.  Her job is to enthuse about mathematics to undergraduates, school students, and the wider public.  Her first book, Closing the Gap: the quest to understand prime numbers, was published in October 2017. Vicky has experience of giving talks and leading workshops for a wide range of audiences, and has been a guest on several BBC Radio 4 programmes. 

 Plenary -  Professor Ruth Merttens 

5 April 2018 - 1140-1240


Title:  Blocking – Profits and Perils of a Non-spiral Curriculum. What we can learn from experience, research and scholarship. Practical ways to achieve mastery. 

Abstract: DfE, through its various agencies, is currently promoting two things: the use of a blocked, as opposed to a spiral, curriculum and the Shanghai maths pedagogy.  DfE rightly, insists that it is the job of primary schools to ensure that children have mastered basic and important mathematical skills and knowledge.  I think we would all concur.  Where I differ from current policy prescriptions is in deciding what is an ideal form of curriculum and which type of pedagogy best suits children in the 21st century. The first part of my talk addresses the question of a Blocked curriculum.  Drawing on practice and scholarship, I shall recap advantages and outline some (largely hidden) disadvantages.  I suggest how these can be minimised to enable such a curriculum to work in an English context. The second part will cover what type of pedagogy is ideal within this Blocked Curriculum. The argument concerns precisely what ‘teaching for understanding’ means in English primary maths education. I argue for teaching that preserves decision making and flexibility in relation to calculation methods. This may be a very different idea of a pedagogy fit for purpose in an open democracy.

Bio: Ruth is Education Director of Hamilton Trust, an educational charity producing adaptable resources for primary teachers. She travels the country giving practical, hands-on in-service training on creative teaching in mathematics and English, and has particular expertise in Early Years education. Ruth has written many training materials for the DfES Strategies, including the DfES Planning Guidance in the NNS, the Foundation materials for Mathematics and more recently, was on the advisory group working with DfE on the new primary mathematics curriculum.  She contributes regularly to professional journals, educational magazines and newspapers. Ruth is also Lead Author of the Abacus Maths Scheme published by Pearson and the Ladybird: I’m Ready for Maths series.

Ruth passionately believes that primary mathematics in the UK is not only well-taught by dedicated professionals, but that we have our own distinct ethos, based on creative learning and critical thinking.


OUP Sponsored Plenary - Berinderjeet Kaur

5 April 2018, 1600-1730

unnamed (2)Title: How the mastery approach works in Singapore secondary schools – what can the UK mathematics teachers adopt or adapt?

Abstract: This lecture will illuminate how the mastery approach is actualized during mathematics lessons in Singapore secondary schools. Students develop conceptual knowledge through
learning experiences that involve doing, observing, reasoning and communicating.  Teachers monitor students and provide just in time help ensuring every child achieves. These high standards and expectations contribute significantly to Singapore’s consistent success in benchmark studies like PISA, along with other factors – particularly the close coordination in Singapore between policy, research and teacher training. Though not always possible for education systems to entirely replicate other systems, some aspects can be emulated such as curriculum (textbooks), classroom practices and professional development.

Bio: Professor Kaur is Professor of Mathematics Education at the National Institute of Education in Singapore, the founding chairperson of the Singaporean Mathematics Teachers’ Conference series, and founding editor of the Association of Mathematics Educators Yearbook series. Professor Kaur was the Mathematics consultant to TIMSS 2011 and a member of the Mathematics Expert Group to PISA 2015. She was awarded the Public Administration Medal by the President of Singapore in 2006 and in 2015, was again recognised for outstanding contributions in Education to the Nation by the Sikh Community of Singapore. She is passionate about the development of mathematics teachers.


After Dinner Speaker - Hannah Fry

5 April 2018 - 19:30

 HFBio: Dr Hannah Fry is a Senior Lecturer in The Mathematics of Cities at UCL. Her work revolves around studying the patterns in human behaviour, particularly in an urban setting: shopping, riots, transport and terrorism. Alongside her academic position, Hannah is also an experienced broadcaster and populariser of mathematics. She has fronted several documentaries on the BBC, written two and a half books and regularly appears as part of a Radio Four duo in thelong- running series The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry. She also thinks that The Life of Pablo is the best rap album of all time and will happily fight with anyone who disagrees.



 Closing Plenary - Paul Ernest

6 April 2018 - 1140-1300


Title:  Mistakes Make Mathematics: Errors are Essential in Education

Abstract:  A large part of learning is generalising or applying knowledge and skills in new situations.  Over-generalising is a natural part of this. Peers, parents and teachers point out over-generalisations, misapplications and other mistakes. In fact, this is an essential component of the teacher’s work – formative assessment – part of their job description. Without correction of errors students’ knowledge becomes idiosyncratic and fails to match conventional knowledge. Simply put it is incorrect, which means teaching has gone astray. Thus errors (and their correction) are essential in all kinds of education. However, if error correction is done insensitively or harshly student self-esteem can be damaged, interfering with their development and further learning (thus thwarting education). Teachers are the expert pilots that must steer students between the Scylla of under-corrected errors and the Charybdis of harshly over-corrected errors. Beyond education the pattern of trial and error (with correction) is also vital. It is the mechanism by which all human knowledge including science grows.

Bio: Paul Ernest started his career as a mathematics teacher in London in the 1970s and then moved into teacher education and research in Cambridge, Bedford and Kingston, Jamaica and finally in Exeter. He is currently emeritus professor at Exeter University, UK where he established and ran the doctoral programme in mathematics education. He has recently held visiting professorships at Trondheim, Oslo, Liverpool and Brunel University, London. His research investigates problems about the nature of mathematics and how it relates to teaching, learning and society. Inevitably this raises questions about the relationship between mathematics and epistemology, ontology, aesthetics and ethics, including social justice, which he continues to address. His publications include The Philosophy of Mathematics Education, Routledge, 1991 (with 2000+ citations), and Social Constructivism as a Philosophy of Mathematics, SUNY Press, 1998. He founded and edits the Philosophy of Mathematics Education Journal, now in its 27th year of publication, accessed via http://socialsciences.exeter.ac.uk/education/research/centres/stem/publications/pmej/