BCME9 with Natthapoj Vincent Trakulphadetkrai 

Thanks to a bursary from the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA), I was able to attend the ninth British Congress of Mathematics Education (BCME9) held at the University of Warwick from 3 to 6 April 2018. Some readers may wonder why I, BCME Conference Manager and Chair of the BCME Communications Committee, would need bursary to attend the conference that I had spent the past four years helping to organise. This is because BCME committee members do not get any fee waiver nor discount. Just like our conference delegates, we too are expected to pay the fee in full. 

With over 350 sessions to choose from, BCME9 was the busiest BCME conference so far. As I was selected from the Primary sector by the IMA to receive the bursary, my report here will be concerned with sessions relating to primary mathematics. Firstly, I presented preliminary findings of one of my on-going research projects which set out to explore English primary teachers’ perceived barriers to the integration of children’s literature in mathematics teaching and discussed how some of these perceived barriers could be addressed. More details of this research study can be found on MathsThroughStories.org. 

Sharing my slot is Ashley Compton, Senior Lecturer in Primary Education at Bishop Grosseteste University. Ashley presented findings from her research which set out to elicit children’s perceptions of mathematics lessons through their drawings. I also attended a session by David Godfrey who showed us how allowing teachers to pose their own word problems can help us to see the way they perceive the different models of the four basic calculation operations. 

Debbie Morgan of the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) presented to a room full of teachers, academics and consultants who were interested to hear more about the mastery approach, particularly in relation to its variation technique.  

The plenary speakers were a hit. Those relating to primary mathematics include Ruth Merttens who highlighted advantages and disadvantages of a ‘blocked’ (non-spiral) curriculum, and Berinderjeet Kaur who explained how the mastery approach works in Singapore schools. Paul Ernest, our Closing Plenary speaker, reminded us of the importance of children’s over-generalisations (or mistakes) and how error correction should be done sensitively.  

Along with Sue Gifford, my Co-Convenor of the British Society for Research into Learning Mathematics Early Years and Primary Mathematics Working Group, and Alison Borthwick, Chair of the joint Association of Teachers of Mathematics and The Mathematical Association’s Primary Mathematics Standing Group, we organised an informal gathering for colleagues interested in early years and primary mathematics to meet over a drink. This informal meeting was productive in that we got to discuss Ofsted’s 2017 report, titled Bold Beginnings: The Reception curriculum in a sample of good and outstanding primary schools, and to network with colleagues whom we had not met before. 

At the risk of sounding biased, BCME9 was truly a great success. If you were unable to attend the conference, you can catch up by visiting this summary page of over 1,000 tweets about the conference, as posted by BCME9 delegates. Again, many thanks to the IMA for their generosity which allowed me to attend BCME9. 

Natthapoj Vincent Trakulphadetkrai