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Val Pritchard, AC for Hertfordshire

Whether you’re starting out with teaching A level, or have years of experience, you can always gain new insights throuh professional development. A recent PD day held in the East of England left us thinking about the features of a great A level Mathematics lesson, a highlight being Natalie Vernon’s afternoon presentation on research into working memory. This helped us to understand why students don’t remember all they are taught, and how we can support the transfer of this information into their long-term memory. She explained why it is important to have lessons and activities that are coherent, connected and challenge students.

In the morning we had a themed approach to differentiation through a key problem and cubic jigsaw. We delved into conceptual understanding by considering how trigonometry could be introduced from the start through the trig circle. We used multiple representations to develop arithmetic sequences with an engaging set of student centred tasks.

Here is a list with fuller descriptions of our key features. These are based on Ofsted subject specific guidance:

Provide a coherent mathematical journey

  • Awareness of conceptual demands; develop conceptual understanding
  • Make links with more fundamental concepts; set student-centred objectives
  • Engage with big mathematical ideas; applications of mathematics

Focus on pedagogy

  • Make use of multiple representations; make connections
  • Differentiation by explanations, by question or by outcome

Provide rich student-centred tasks

  • Nurture mathematical independence through problem solving
  • Ask questions that promote deeper mathematical thinking

Many thanks to the colleagues who took an active part in all sessions, and to Marriotts School who hosted us so well, albeit in hot conditions. Enormous thanks are also due to Natalie for her time, enthusiasm and expertise. She was an example to us all on how to make a hot afternoon session come alive. Also thanks to Bernard Murphy for his part in developing this day.

A key quote: “Excellent training. Extremely useful with regards to how to go about structuring lessons with the aim of optimising learning.” “The sequence of tasks for differentiation and the trig explanation were particularly useful.”

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