## #MathsConf15 #MathsIsBeautiful

La Salle’s Complete Maths Conferences are hands down, the most value for money CPD out there for maths teachers. As always, the hardest part of the day is choosing which sessions to go to due to the quality of the programme. (A nice problem to have)

Ben Ward‘s workshop of effective leadership was a comprehensive mix of theory and reflection on his own experiences, which gave a lot of insight in the different skills required for those roles that supplement classroom work. I left this session with a longer to-read list, as well as key advice to implement straight away.

Philipp Legner‘s session on mathematical storytelling was fascinating as well, particularly around The Great Trigonometric Survey, a nationwide measurement plan in India that resulted in being able to state Everest wast he highest mountain in the world, taking a century to come to fruition. I tend to forget the bigness of maths, and these kinds of stories in the history of maths are vital for letting students in on how expansive, human and awe-inspiring maths is.

In the plenary session, Simon Singh discussed his work and his maths books, whilst in his session he gave an overview of the projects he’s involved with that stretch the most able in maths. I found the Parallel project particularly interesting, and I’m looking forward to launching this with our most able students next year.

In the final session; Craig Barton, Jess Prior and Ben Gordon outlined how they use variation in their planning and delivery of lessons, launching variationtheory.com. I found this session really inspiring, as it broke down not only the strategies and their implementation, but every speaker outlined their thought-process and the tweaks they made after trying things in the classroom.

Variationtheory.com is an amazing resource for teachers, given how much time and thought goes into planning for variation, having a central place to share these resources and reflections can only bolster the practice of teachers nation-wide. I’m certainly going to be trying this out in lessons and getting involved in adding to the website, as well as pinching all the amazing work already there.

La Salle’s conferences are brilliant for bringing together the expertise of maths teaching from practitioners themselves, and looking over the next two years of locations, they’re well spread out compared to other professional development opportunities.

In his opening introduction, Andrew Taylor (head of maths at AQA), spoke about their campaign #MathsIsBeautiful – talking about those bits of maths that grab you.

For me it’s root 2. I love root 2.

I love that it’s irrational.

I love that we can prove it’s irrational to secondary students. (Looking at the amount of arguing and lying that seems to be dominating all aspects of the news cycle, I find it immensely powerful that we get irrefutable truths in maths. Comforting, even.)

But my favourite thing about root 2, is how we know it can’t be exactly expressed as a decimal, but it appears in one of the most basic shapes we first learn about.

The diagonal of a unit square is root 2 units long. The diagonal of any square is a multiple of root 2 units long. If I draw a square, and a diagonal, this seems really basic to see how long it is. But, even if I measure it with the most accurate ruler imaginable, even down to the point of a diagonal with a line-width of an atom, I still won’t quite get to root 2. It’s in the ratio of paper sizes, across the diagonals of every square, but it’s right on the edge of where measurement tips from existing into a platonic ideal of ‘perfect length’.

And that makes my brain go a bit wobbly.

Root 2 is lurking everywhere, like the sneaky version of its more famous irrational cousin pi: it’s in number; shape; and its proof requires a bit of algebra. It really is my favourite number.