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Improve primary maths by appointing specialist maths teachers

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by PaulDG, Nov 13, 2012.

  1. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    Take a look at the Independent sector. Many parents agree with you that they'd like their kids taught by specialists and are prepared to pay for it.
    Oh, but surely they'll be good teachers? You can't say the just because they can't achieve level 5 they'll not be an excellent teacher? Some of the best teachers can't count or spell, you know! Who are you to say they shouldn't be a teacher? For some of them, it's all they've ever wanted to do.
    (Just trying to condense the thread by getting the flack out of the way now..)
  2. hairdo

    hairdo Occasional commenter

    [​IMG] flack accepted ...
    HOWEVER...I am a good teacher but would accept that others would teach say. physics, better than I do . I could read about things and regurgitate them up to the point of my own understanding, but beyond this so I could teach the breadth and depth of understanding..!
    Maths, like literacy, is SO important that it should be taught by teachers who know how maths works so that they can also extend the higher achievers easily, problem solve, play about with numbers etc etc and see the progression clearly in their own heads (not by reading a piece of paper) . A less confident, competent teacher, particularly in the earlier years is doing children a serious disservice.
    I have been on Primary training courses where teachers who are expected to teach fractions, ratio, proportion, probability, percentages etc...yes, and even division and subtraction !!! can not even do them themselves .....that is not a good thing! Even when shown by a course leader they still look stumped ...not good!
    I am not saying primary teachers can not teach maths, just that some do it pretty badly and because target setting pushes children onward and upwards with no real understanding sometimes, a year with a less than satisfactory teacher can kill of maths forever for some kids and it is not possible to catch up by extra tuition an hour a week just before SATs!
  3. hairdo

    hairdo Occasional commenter

    any thoughts ...I'd love to see what others think. I am not slating primary school teachers (I am one myself) just saying that every primary teacher does not feel comfortable enough with maths to teach it effectively, and therefore are bound by reaching targets rather than teaching for conceptual understanding.
  4. davidmu

    davidmu Occasional commenter

    Like many secondary teachers of Mathematics I do not feel that I would be very competent below about Year 5. My expertise is in "A" Mathematics and beyond and there are too few of us as it is in secondary education.
  5. hairdo

    hairdo Occasional commenter

    Maybe there should be specialists at KS3 as well who understand the progression at primary school but can teach up to level 6 (or 7). I know many secondary teachers who are less comfortable (and do not want to teach the earlier classes). I would be happy teaching anywhere in primary or KS3. Unfortunately primary schools do not employ maths teachers and secondary schools don't seem to employ KS3 teachers who have primary experience.
  6. tango78

    tango78 New commenter

    I definitely believe that the teachers teaching Maths to our primary kids should be Maths specialists. I have been teaching for quite a while now and it scares me to see the pupils that were in my after school booster sessions who we gave a massive amount of support to help them achieve their grade C are now qualifying as teachers in my area and teaching orimary school pupils Maths!

    The teachers that I am talking about didn't have the deep understanding of how Maths works and only passed their Maths GCSE with a superficial and probably temporary understanding of the subject and now they are setting up all sorts of misconceptions in the primary pupils. Not to mention limiting the pupils achievement as some of the pupils are reaching the same stage in mathematical understanding as their teachers early on and then not being able to go any further.

    I'm sure they are good teachers in the other subjects, subjects that they personally enjoy but I strongly believe that specialists should be teaching Maths from Day 1 so that we don't spend years undoing damage and going over the basics in secondary school.

    Rant over, sorry about that!
  7. hairdo

    hairdo Occasional commenter

    I don't think that undoing of misconceptions is restricted to secondary school. I think this happens in primary too but once kids are behind in maths coupled with schools pushing on and on according to the week plans in the strategy you end up with kids who have so many gaps in the basics that they must sit year after year having no idea what the teacher is on about. This amounts to 5 hours per week of frustration in primary and at least 4 in secondary. No wonder the dumping ground for these kids ie bottom set is often so poorly behaved.....I would be too if I had had years and years of going over the same ground.
  8. Like the posts above, as a secondary maths specialist, I do not feel overly equipped to teach those below a certain level. However,the skills I possess as a 'specialist' are superior to those of most primary teachers.

    For example, how many primary teachers know multiple ways of simply completing the sum 47 x 86? If they only know one method, what do they teach the pupil who cannot grasp it? How can they possibly know the best method to teach their class if they but one method? Now, my passion is for mathematics, therefore I make myself aware of the different ways of completing such a sum. A non specialist may not share my passion and would revert to past experience, without realising the potential in easier methods than the 'chimeny' method.
    I must stress at this point that I certainly do not want to go to a primary and teach. I would not have the patience and my admiration for our primary teachers knows no bounds. However, you can tell from the pupils from certain primaries that Maths was not the priority of that teacher, or certainly not their passion. Once at secondary you get subject specialists who for the vast majority love their subject. It is understandable that if maths was your least favourite subject at school, then it would be your least favourite to teach. I would be the same if I were teaching English or Art in a primary.
  9. Why would primary school teachers not know different ways of completing this calculation? My Y5s know different ways of doing that. (A sum is the answer to an addition question, by the way. I remember learning that in primary school.)
    One of the main ideas at primary school is a developmental approach to calculations.
    My "weaker ones" don't sit there and just suffer through a lesson day after day. They do maths activities appropriate to their level and needs. They feel successful in Maths and participate with enthusiasm, despite knowing that they are weaker and behind. They try incredibly hard and they are making progress. There's no comparison to poorly-behaved pupils in a bottom set.
    My top group are incredibly keen and a complete joy to teach. It's my middle ones, who need a kick up their rear ends,...but once they've sorted themselves and stopped being annoying, they are fine as well.
    I might be rubbish at Art (and then I have to prepare even harder for a lesson), but just because I teach at primary level, that doesn't mean I'm rubbish at teaching Maths.
  10. hairdo

    hairdo Occasional commenter

    sounds like teaching maths is one of your strengths [​IMG] And I am sure if you took the SATs tests would achieve at least a level 4.
    I started this post, not to have a go at primary teachers in general, but the poor standard of some maths teaching at primary level which has a negative effect on children's learning of maths throughout their whole career. I think it is extremely difficult to be a specialist at everything, and in my experience, because at primary level the class teacher is expected to do it all some teachers (for whom maths was a weak subject for themselves at school) would not even feel comfortable admitting they do not even understand some of the maths being taught. I really think it would be beneficial to have strong maths teachers (not necessarily secondary trained) in primary schools.
    Children in primary schools are rarely set and if they are it is into a max of maybe top middleand bottom. In secondary there may be many sets and the bottom set in my experience is made up partly of disaffected kids doing the same old same old pre level 4 work they have done for years. You would not get a sense of this in primary schools.
    I still think it is unacceptable some that kids in year 6 are below level 2. this is normal kids with no SEN probs. The reason why has to be addressed.You will always get some children who struggle but not as many as are in the system at the moment. Schools are failing some of our children and this should be addressed.

  11. hairdo

    hairdo Occasional commenter

    I think the majority of teachers understand many different ways of doing a multiplication problem ....but children can't solve these in any form unless they know their tables or can work them out! I don't think the column method is what is taught first!! But some teachers don't understand percentages, proportion, probabilitity, fractions etc etc well enough themselves so shouldn't be put in a position of having to teach them. And some schools don't allow any text books which would actually be helpful for the weaker teachers as methods would be laid out clearly!

  12. lunarita

    lunarita Senior commenter

    Agree will all of this. I am a specialist (Physics/Maths dual) but you wouldn't get me into primary not even with a gun at my head.
    And while you might get some maths specialists happy to move to primary, so many secondaries struggle to staff their maths depts with specialists that I can't see it being encouraged.
  13. In the same way you would get many maths graduates into teaching. For those the thought of teaching is crazy, BUT there are a number who will.
    I would not teach primary year groups but would teach primary maths where different classes come into my maths room.
    I whince at the idea of non academics getting into primary teaching because "They love kids" etc etc. Too many hand over pupils with poor skills when we have them at KS3.
  14. hairdo

    hairdo Occasional commenter

    I don't really perceive a maths specialist as one with a maths degree who can teach up to A level and beyond, or a secondary trained teacher. Many maths boffins would find it as challenging to teach the very basics at primary level as those teachers who find it a difficult subject to teach because they don't have a deep enough understanding of how it works themselves.
    By specialist, I mean someone who really understands how to teach from P levels to level 4, and knows how maths works, and can see where the conceptual gaps in learning are and know how to plug them, so that all children (perhaps minus children with genuine learning difficulties) have a firm foundation of mathematical understanding.

  15. No. The former is patronising, the latter sarcastic.
  16. do you know anything about primary maths teaching? because this implies that you do not - no primary teacher would only know 'one method' - there is a framework which we have reduced to 4 steps which work best in our school - every teacher would know them - and probably a couple of other steps beside if they needed them for an indviduasl child
    do you know anything about how primary schools are organised, or how information and learning frameworks in primary schools are decided on and disseminated?or how teachers are allocated ability groups and become specialists at that ability level
    florapost - primary school maths specialist but not maths co-ordinator - they are different roles

  17. CarrieV

    CarrieV Lead commenter

    well, this week so far we've covered partitioning, grid method, column multiplication and gelosia. We've also covered estimating first by rounding, and checking using calculators. But it is only Tuesday!
  18. hairdo

    hairdo Occasional commenter

    It was not intended to be patronising but I am sure that poster would achieve a level higher than that. It is no surprise that there is a lot of sensitivity surrounding this issue and I would like some real debate on the issues that I have raised. I am sorry if you feel like things are provocative ...I suppose I would like people to respond to my original posting. However, I stand by my original thoughts that nobody should be training/ teaching as a primary teacher whose role includes teaching maths if they themselves could not obtain a level 4 plus with some ease
    There is a REAL issue with teenagers/young people being innumerate, and in general the standards of numeracy have dropped since I started teaching 20 years ago. This shows up in how children are prepared to handle work in Key stage 3 rather than KS2 SATs test results. By the time children have reached year 8/9.10 they would have had many hours/weeks/years of maths teaching. It is unacceptable that so many do so poorly. Maths teching/numeracy starts in primary school. Good teaching would erase most of the problems. Ironing out at secondary should not have to be an option.
    There are many excellent teachers around who can teach every subject to a high standard. But there are quite a number of teachers who, while they teach every other subject well, struggle with teaching maths. This is no surprise as it is not an easy subject to teach, and is even harder to teach if you find maths difficult anyway.
    My original post questioned whether it would be beneficial to put specialists into primary school to improve maths teaching/ learning. This would mean being an exceptional teacher of all subjects but maths would be fine, and pressure would be taken off teachers who do not understand maths in the first place (....and I'm not being provocative or patronising ..they do exist!!)

  19. Yeah, with an IQ of 128, 15 GCSEs, 4 A-levels (including Maths and English) and a university-level education in several countries, I might,...just about. I might need a reader,...English is only my second language out of four, after all...[​IMG]
    I'll go and prep my maths lesson for tomorrow. We are calculating the area and perimeter of shapes. I was mean to my clever ones today and didn't let them go to break until they had worked out how to find the area of a right-angled triangle....which ended in the words "Oh,...I KNEW that,....oh, that's so easy....how could I not see this??" (from them, not me...I do know, just about). We also linked factors to finding the lengths of different sides, had a recap of square numbers and took a little look at volume and cube numbers. It was mainly because they had been too cocky in the lesson and needed taking down a peg...so I went off on a tangent. We'll go back to compound shapes tomorrow...
    My less able have carpet squares to walk around. They can find the area...the perimeter still gets them muddled. Bless...
  20. hairdo

    hairdo Occasional commenter

    Which year group do you teach?

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