Problem Solving in Mathematics Conference
On 21st February, CCEA held a ‘Problem Solving in Mathematics’ conference, in the Stormont Hotel. The purpose of this conference was to promote problem solving in mathematics and showcase its importance in relation to education and industry. Those invited were post-primary teachers of Mathematics and other educational stakeholders.
Problem solving is an essential skill for our learners, which simultaneously develops creativity, curiosity and decision–making, as well as developing independent and collaborative learning skills.
The conference aimed to share best practice in embedding problem solving skills in post-primary Mathematics and facilitate discussion in the context of the classroom, employment and 21st Century skills.
Those attending heard from respected commentators from academia and industry about the importance and benefits of problem solving within mathematics.
The conference was opened by Justin Edwards, the CCEA Chief Executive, who talked about why mathematics is more important than ever in relation to 21st century skills.
On the day we had three keynote speakers:
- Geoff Wake from the Centre for Research in Mathematics Education at the University of Nottingham, who talked about what we need to know when teaching problem solving;
- Seamus Cushley, a director at QwC, who talked about innovation in industry; and
- Rob Eastaway, an author and director of Maths Inspiration, who talked about how to connect problem solving and mathematics to the real world.
You can read more about the keynote speakers and see pdfs of their presentations.
We also held six workshops on the day, these included a mixture of organisations that provided support for teachers delivering mathematics and those that demonstrated how important problem solving in mathematics is to employment:
- Catalyst Inc: Generation Innovation – Problem Based Learning;
- Ipsos MORI: ‘Why do I need to learn that? Will I ever use that in the real world?’;
- Makematic and Bank of Ireland: Problem Solving for 21st Century Skills;
- Mathematics Mastery and Hazelwood Integrated College: Using Bar Modelling To Master Mathematics;
- Qubizm: Izak9; and
- University of Nottingham: Developing Students’ Problem Solving Skills In Your Classroom.
You can read more about the workshops and see available presentations from the day.
CCEA would once again like to thank all those involved on the day and for all of those who attended. Highlights of the conference can be viewed in the video below.
Problem Solving in Mathematics Conference, 21st February 2018
Speaker Profile: Geoff Wake
Centre for Research in Mathematics Education, University of Nottingham
Geoff Wake is Professor of Mathematics Education at the University of Nottingham where he leads the Centre for Research in Mathematics Education. The Centre has a strong track record of designing and developing resources that promote approaches to teaching and learning of problem solving and concept development. Much of this work has been carried out as part of the Shell Centre for Mathematical Education that recently celebrated 50 years of excellence in educational design. In recent years much of this work has been substantially focused overseas working with colleagues in the USA, Australia, Japan and across Europe.
Geoff’s own research has, for many years, focused on problem solving, modelling and applications of mathematics. This has included research in workplaces as well as schools and colleges and also development of qualifications such as Freestanding Mathematics Qualifications, Use of Maths and Core Mathematics. Most recently he has, in collaboration with colleagues in Japan, been working to develop collaborative communities of teacher researchers using lesson study to inform development of teaching practice in problem solving. He also directs a project that is using dialogic teaching approaches that support students working to re-sit GCSE examinations.
Speaker Profile: Seamus Cushley
Director, Blockchain, FinTech & Digital at Price Waterhouse Copper (PwC)
As a Director at PwC, Seamus is focused on building startups, educating executives, and designing comprehensive strategies to help large companies, governments, and SMEs take advantage of some of the most advanced technology companies coming to market.
Seamus is primarily focused on helping clients understand and shape how blockchain can be applied to solve real-world problems, and why this nascent and disruptive technology should be part of their business strategy in the digital age.
Seamus has over 15+ years in FinTech, having held various roles in Financial and Payments organisations, within engineering and product development. Experience in establishing and running successful software development centres, primarily engaged in delivering new innovative e-commerce products.
Speaker Profile: Rob Eastaway
Author and Director of Maths Inspiration
Rob Eastaway is best known as the author of several popular maths books, including the bestselling 'Why Do Buses Come In Threes?' and 'Maths for Mums and Dads'. He is also the Director of Maths Inspiration, a national programme of theatre-based lecture shows that has reached over 150,000 teenagers since it began in 2004.
Rob has always had a particular interest in ‘real world’ mathematical modelling and problem-solving. He spent several years as a management consultant at Deloitte, and was also a regular puzzle setter for New Scientist magazine. His most recent book 'Any Ideas'? is a guide to creative problem-solving, for individuals and for groups. It isn’t a maths book, but many of the principles for thinking creatively apply just as much in the maths classroom as they do in other walks of life.
Workshop: Generation Innovation – Problem Based Learning
Facilitator: Diane Morrow
“By broadening horizons and exploring possibility we set young imaginations free and propel their aspirations higher”
Generation Innovation aims to energise the imaginations and aspirations of local young people by increasing their awareness of future careers as innovators. They are central to unlocking our future as a globally renowned knowledge economy. That’s why we put them at the heart of an inspirational network of experienced entrepreneurs, universities and employers.
In a world in which knowledge is a currency, we need to help prepare young people with the necessary 21st Century learning to critically use this knowledge. Problem finding and problem solving are two key skills required by employers in this faced paced technology driven world. Through this workshop Diane led participants through design thinking approaches to problem solving and framed the challenge within the context of the business world.
“…we’re on a mission to build a community of innovators so powerful its people can change the world” – Catalyst Inc
Workshop: 'Why do I need to learn that? Will I ever use that in the real world?'
Facilitator: Fiona Rooney
Real World Research – research skills to solve problems in the modern work and how innovation is important – the latest innovations in research.
When a client comes to Ipsos MORI it is because they have a problem that either they think research can solve or research will provide evidence which will assist in solving their problem. To conduct a research project there are many individual problems which need to be solved in order that the research will stand up to scrutiny and ultimately, will measure what it sets out to do. Furthermore, clients bring additional problems to every research project, for example, budget and time constraints.
In this interactive workshop, Fiona examined a real-life client brief and discussed possible target audiences, sampling, questionnaire design, method of data collection, analysis and reporting. The participants also considered the “so what” of the research, what it told them and what the implications were to see if the client’s problem was solved.
Workshop: Problem Solving for 21st Century Skills
MakeMatic and Bank of Ireland UK
Facilitators: Mark Nagurski (MakeMatic)
Treasa Anderson (Bank of Ireland)
STEM subjects provide a natural opportunity to help students develop key 21st century skills across creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking; the kind of problem solving skills that students need. As educators, we can leverage these subject areas to intentionally develop problem solving skills in our students, but first we need to build our own technology and instructional practice skills.
In this workshop, participants explored the link between problem solving, 21st century skills and STEM. Participants discussed instructional design strategies through worked examples and identified opportunities within the Mathematics curriculum to develop new approaches.
Participants were also given access to a range of online professional development resources, courtesy of Bank of Ireland UK, to support their own skills development across technology and instructional practice.
Workshop: Using Bar Modelling to Master Mathematics
Mathematics Mastery and Hazelwood College
Facilitators: Elizabeth Bridgett (Mathematics Mastery)
Carol O’ Hara and Niamh McMurray (Hazelwood Integrated College)
Hazelwood Integrated College is part of the Mathematics Mastery programme, a professional development partnership whose aim is to enhance all students’ enjoyment, resilience, understanding and attainment in mathematics.
In this workshop, participants were given a short overview of the Mathematics Mastery principles and how problem solving is at the heart of everything Mathematics Mastery do. Participants looked at how the bar model can support students’ approaches to problem solving and provide teachers with a new perspective on a variety of topics. Consideration was given to how the concrete-pictorial-abstract approach can deepen understanding and solve many different problems in many different ways.
Facilitator: Franz Schlindwein
Izak9 is a radical and innovative teaching and learning device that provides rich learning opportunities for teachers to deliver the content and skills of the Mathematics curriculum. It was designed for use in KS2 and KS3 classrooms, to help ease pupil transition from primary to secondary school phases and to offer genuine shared learning opportunities in mathematics, to pupils of all abilities and preferred learning styles.
Izak9 is already being used by 40% of schools across Northern Ireland and many hundreds more abroad.
Franz Schlindwein, a former post-primary head of Mathematics, and creator of Izak9, delivered workshops focusing on the curricular aims of problem solving, fluency and reasoning and showcased what Izak9 can offer with regard to: skills development, mindset change and how its use supports the aspirations of the Shared Education and Transition projects in Northern Ireland.
Workshop: Developing Students’ Problem Solving Skills in Your Classroom
University of Nottingham
Facilitator: Mark Simmons (School of Education)
In this workshop participants had an opportunity to consider some ways of developing their pedagogy for problem solving.
Through engaging with one of CCEA’s Problem Solving tasks, participants examined how the mathematical structure of the problem situation is revealed to our pupils.
Participants addressed the question of how we can help them to expose the structure of the mathematics beneath the problem (‘formulating’ or ‘representing’ the problem).
Participants seen how this can be tackled through:
- Identifying ‘sliders’,
- Considering simplest values
- Experimenting with extremes
- Considering questions which COULD be asked in the context
The classroom culture of ‘context critique’ which may help less privileged pupils to understand the rules of engagement with questions in school mathematics was also considered.