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How do you teach Maths?

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by moocow82, Jul 17, 2011.

  1. I am not being facetious! By quirk of the timetable I am going to be teaching some year 9 maths this year. Quite looking forward to it except ..... Not really sure what to do.

    I learnt maths in a very traditional environment. Can anyone recommend any good books? I don't want to just be the fill in teacher who needs to be carried for the couple of lessons.

    Many thanks
  2. Anonymous

    Anonymous New commenter

    Who needs maths teachers with experience of teaching maths eh? Sorry - I don't want to sound rude but I get amazed at some of the backgrounds of teachers in secondary schools. Geography doing history, anyone doing maths. No wonder we have a low pass rate at GCSE.
    Not a dig - just an annoyance with a lack of experienced teachers in secondary.
  3. dear oh dear....clueless...in fact so naive its caused me to chuckle.
    As for the original question.
    Lots of pedagogy can be interchanged between subjects but its not what you have to teach per se, but who you are teaching very often
    You may find the kids eager to work from textbooks alone and crack on, you may on the other hand find you have to control and keep lower ability and/or poorly behaved kids on task doing the most basic maths.
    Some things have changed (a basic example would be many kids doing 'grid multiplication' now) but one thing remains....High expectations and support wins.
  4. Anonymous

    Anonymous New commenter

    I'm not naive or clueless - I am more than aware that non specialist subject teachers take other subjects in secondary school. I can tell that when I look through my tutees books and see them given work that is not challenging, when they have been given incorrect explanations, when their teacher does not have the subject knowledge to explain or challenge a person, when the teacher relies on worksheets and when the teacher does not even bother to mark the work.
    I have tutees in 5 different different secondary schools and there is not one school which has actually impressed me in the quality of the work in the book. The work is either pitched too easy or is too hard (level 5 girl doing quadratic sequences). The work has not been marked. The marking is not helpful.
    Yes - high expectations are expected but you have always talked about having a love of maths to be a good teacher. A maths background might just help.
  5. For the OP, the advice of DM and Nazard seems very sound to me.

    For me, I'll usually follow one of two lines. One is teacher directed with me explaining a topic but involving the pupils by using mini-whiteboards (this keeps them engaged in what's going on), then it's their turn to have a go. Don't feel you have to follow the 'three part lesson', you might cover several mini topics in one hour.

    Another approach that can work well is to get pupils going on a little mini investigation or task and let them have a go before picking up any points they have struggled with/then doing some more formal explaining.

    If you are looking for a good book to read then get hold of a copy of 'Adapting and Extending Secondary Mathematics Activities' by Prestage and Perks, that will give you lots of good sound classroom advice on how to come up with tasks you can use and adapt to the ability of your class. As a very simple example, rather than asking pupils to substitute 3 into 2a-b ask when is 2a-b less than a-b, lots of practice from one question and not the same emotional involvement as a one shot answer.

    I hope that the above is of some use to the OP, and I hope that others might share a little of what they do. Best of luck for September, and do have a nice holiday!
  6. Piranha

    Piranha Lead commenter

    Why do you expect more than half the country to get a C? I learned Maths in the "good old days" when the majority of students were relegated to CSE Maths. GCSEs were invented as a way of allowing eveybody to get some kind of a pass. However, anything below a C is now considered by many to be a fail, which is tough on students for whom a D is a good result. Yes, there is some poor Maths teaching, partly because not enough people skilled at the subject and with teaching skills are attracted into teaching. However, there are plenty of people with all the skills needed to do a good job, some of whom are active on this forum.
    There may have been a few posts critical of some primary Maths teaching, but I don't recall anybody saying this. I don't think this kind of them and us stuff is helpful.
  7. The more you post the more you expose a fundamental lack of understanding of maths education.
    Pupils obtaining a C grade has very little if nothing to do with the amount of subect specialists teaching maths. The knowledge required to deliver a foundation maths GCSE is little woeful.
    I doubt I would even put it in the top 10 reasons why pupils do not get a C grade.
  8. Anonymous

    Anonymous New commenter

    You're right. I'm not a secondary maths teacher. I work in secondary and primary schools doing 1-1 tuition and work as a private tutor.
    I hear my tutees talking about school - science teachers who don't know about physics or chemistry in great detail, maths teachers who can't explain practical applications of a straight line equation and the pupils are bored or not inspired.
    For me, my favourite teachers were those who inspired me. Those who had a passion for the subject. They clearly loved it and could inspire those students to learn and to achieve.
    You're right - the subject knowledge to deliver the curriculum to Grade C is not much. You don't need a degree or even A-level maths to understand it. Some y6 pupils who I teach could explain about 3/4 of some foundation papers I have seen. That's not the point - can a teacher who has "been asked to teach maths" be inspiring in the subject if they have not got a passion for it? Maybe they can.
    Of course there are reasons why pupils don't get a Grade C. But 75% of pupils do get a Level 4 at primary (of course there has been intensive coaching but it does show there is an ability there). So what happens in secondary? 5 more years of education. Behaviour, parents, lack of ability, lack of inspiring teachers, lack of motivation, poor teaching?
    What does make a good teacher? What makes a good maths teacher? Fundamental questions - is the skills required for a maths teacher for weaker sets the same for a maths teacher at higher sets?
    So far you've dismissed my views as naive - maybe they are but all I want is for all pupils to achieve and I have not been at all impressed by what I've seen and heard about secondary maths teaching in what is supposedly a good area. Nothing wrong with that is there?
  9. How to teach maths?


    Ah happy days!
  10. Yes there is something wrong as you have suggested this is widespread in teachers who decided to do a degree in a different subect. In reality you have found isolated personal cases and made a swipe at all those you deem not to be 'specialists'
    There are equally as many with a maths degree who are poor.
    What you want pupils to achieve has nothing to do with your views and using it as a reason for your misconceptions is not really applicable as most teachers do want to better kids.
    All the other points made have no real link to your argument, in fact some contradict it.
  11. Hi Robyn,
    It is worth bearing in mind that the pupils you work with are those who are struggling. You are certainly not seeing a representative sample of pupils - perhaps you are not seeing a representative sample of teachers either?
  12. Anonymous

    Anonymous New commenter

    Wow - defensive teachers!
    I work with a range of pupils - those who are struggling, those who want to get to the next set and those who are high achievers. Those who aren't listened to at school. Those who are rushed through work. Those who can't work because the behaviour in class is so poor. Those who are suddenly told they are doing a GCSE in year 9. Those whose work is not marked. Those who suddenly find out they are 10 weeks behind in their course work in year 11 and they want that A*. My pupils come from a number of schools in an area that gets between 50% - 70% at least grade C at GCSE.
    I have constantly said that having a degree in maths does NOT necessarily make you a good teacher. That's obvious. You can also not have a degree in maths and can be a good and inspiring maths teacher. Lots of the issues I have mentioned is down to poor teaching and poor behaviour, even in an allegedly good area. Oh - and I have no idea if the teachers whose pupils I work with have a qualification in maths.
    However - all I am saying is that having an inspiring teacher with a passion for maths was a key factor in me enjoying my maths lessons (which is probably the same for having a teacher with a passion for geography or history). When someone asks "How do I teach maths?", all credit for them to ask but maths is SUCH a crucial subject, it would be nice to have a teacher who does not need to ask that.
    Good luck to the OP. I hope you can encourage your pupils in maths and inspire them rather than have to simply control them and give them endless worksheets from tenticks and lessons from MyMaths.
  13. Anonymous

    Anonymous New commenter

    So how do you get inspiring teachers?
    How do you stop playground circus teaching? Edutainment
    Data driven teaching?
    I do actually AGREE with you by the way. I think Grade C should be an achievable target for most pupils - but there are many factors preventing this.
    So what makes a good maths teacher? Instead of criticising, can you, as an experienced maths teacher, explain what you think makes a good maths teacher? In fact - I think I might start this as a new thread.
  14. googolplex

    googolplex Occasional commenter

    A couple of comments, amongst many that could be made:
    In Utopia, they probably do have the a limitless supply of wonderful teachers to fill every subject, and money is no object. In the real world, we don't. Fortunately, I haven't had to advertise for a maths teacher for the past 2 years so I'm not sure about the current situation, but three or four years ago we would put in an advert - Spring time, for a job the following September - and receive zero applications. That's been the real world.
    Currently we have a fully staffed timetable, but that doesn't stop the need, sometimes, for non-specialists to take up some slack in their timetable. 'Twas ever thus.
    IMO, Ofsted and NC knocked the stuffing out of inspirational teaching. Many fine practitioners left when some bird brain suddenly decided a number of years back that a lesson couldn't be 'good' unless it had three parts to it. At least they have corrected that one. But, so long as we have this judgemental, punitive ofsted regime where people pontificate on what constitutes good and outstanding teaching at the expense of allowing teachers to be creative and teach to their strengths, 'inspirational' teaching will continue to be stifled.

  15. mmmmmaths

    mmmmmaths New commenter

    "How do I teach Maths?"..........it would be nice to have a teacher who does not need to ask that.
    Quoted from post 18.

    Not all pupils can have the 'best' teacher in the school. Teachers are at different stages in their own development. As a parent I would want the best teacher to teach my son but coping with having sometimes had poor uninspiring teachers has been a fact of life. Self motivation is the key, succeeding in spite of.

    As a new teacher, it takes time to 'learn the trade'. There is no difference between the OP asking for guidance and ITT / NQT asking for advise. Actually there is a difference, if the OP is a good inspiring teacher in their own subject then there is no reason why, with good support, they cannot very quickly become a good inspiring teacher of Mathematics. They will already have the transferable skills, knowledge and understanding to hit the ground running in their new subject.

    Understanding how others teach different topics allows for good personal development. I see asking as a strength not as a weakness.
  16. davidmu

    davidmu New commenter

    How correct googolplex is. I give you an example to consider. A few years ago I had an HMI for Maths follow me around for a day and at the end he told the HT how fortunate he was to have such an inspirational teacher on his staff. A few months later an Ofsted inspector, in a 15 min observation, graded me as satisfactory as I did not conform to his ideal. A month later I resigned, I told the HT why, and he was angry. On reflection it was the best thing I did as I was in demand in a variety of situations subsequently. Incidently, the first advert for my replacement brought no applications.
  17. Anonymous

    Anonymous New commenter

    Yes - I know the Utopian world and the real world. And it is good to ask for advice. It's just disheartening when you hear these teenagers talk to you about their classes and see their work. And like I've said, I'm sure some of these teachers have maths qualifications and some don't. Some are good teachers and some have "difficulties" with their class.
    I was watching the story of maths last night on BBC4. Fascinating - just really inspiring stuff about the development of numbers, the number system, time and algebra from a guy who really knew his stuff. I was lucky - I went to a good school with well qualified teachers who had a real passion for their subject. History teachers who wrote books on the Romans, Latin teachers who talked forever about Ancient Wars, Maths teachers who absolutely loved their topic.
    But the real world is different. I know that.
  18. Anyone remember the OP? They asked very politely for a bit of advice. DM, Nazard and (I hope!) the post I made offered some pointers but who else has bothered?

    Robyn: to mymaths and 10ticks you might add mathswatch, another bane of good teaching.

    For the OP, if they are still with us, try a little low tech on occasions like matching exercises (see if you can get hold of the Tarsia program) or a copy of the book 'Mathematical Team Games'. Not for every lesson but a nice way to add variety.
  19. googolplex

    googolplex Occasional commenter

    Has the OP remembered they started a thread? Haven't seen much by way of discussion from them...
  20. Sorry - felt I had to post as I often get an 'anti primary teacher' feel from this forum. Yes there are poor teachers in primary, just as there are in secondary...and there are outstanding teachers in both phases as well. Many of the primary teachers I have come across, who are at least good in their maths teaching, do not have a mathematical background but their empathy with children who struggle and their knowledge of taking 'small steps' to improve understanding contributes to their effectiveness.
    I am well aware of the 'in jokes' - that in primary they just teach knitting and singing and that in secondary if a child doesn't understand and asks for clarification the teacher gives exactly the same explanation in a louder voice!!
    Isn't it time we worked together and built on the fact that most of us are here because we want to help children learn? Why can't primary and secondary teachers liaise more and build up an understanding of what each other does?
    As for subject knowledge - as a primary specialist with a first in maths, does that make me a better maths teacher than most seconday maths specialists? Perhaps not! [​IMG]

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