CPD Conference at the National STEM Learning Centre 


The well organised and engaging CPD conference at the National STEM Learning Centre at York organised by the IMA for the Maths scholars was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The first session was on ‘The amazing world of the interlocking cube’ by Steve Lyon, a mathematics specialist at the STEM learning centre. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics encourages the use of manipulatives which not only allow students to construct their own cognitive models for abstract mathematical ideas but also serve as a way of communicating the ideas to other students and teachers. The ‘Interlocking cube’ is a fantastic manipulative that can be used at both the primary as well the secondary level. 

Each one of us was provided with a set of interlocking cubes and a paper with the numbers from 1 to 79 arranged in 13 rows with the first row holding 7 numbers and every other consecutive row holding 6 numbers each. Steve introduced this lecture to us with the statement ‘Here’s a problem. Don’t do it’! We had to build towers out of the cubes by placing a tower on each number where the height of the tower represented the number of factors the number had. He told us to visualise this in our minds before moving on to work with the cubes. We were encouraged to spot the patterns and the easiest way of figuring out the number of factors each number has. It was a fun filled activity that I enjoyed working on.

Another hands-on activity we did was understanding the geometry of sequences using the cubes. I loved the fact that each term of a linear sequence could be modelled by these cubes giving us a clearer representation for the nth term of the sequence. Steve took the problem one step further by asking us to come up with three different ways of representing the nth term of a given linear sequence. 

The representation of (n + 1)² = n² + 2n + 1 using the cubes was the final activity we did during the session. This is definitely a must do in the classrooms that will help the students to understand the concept of expanding brackets in a quadratic polynomial quite clearly.

Manipulatives are more commonly seen in the primary classrooms and the activities we did with the interlocking cubes showed us the varied uses they could have in the secondary classrooms. I will definitely be using the ideas from this brilliant session in my future lesson planning.

By Aveline Meyn