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Improve primary maths by appointing specialist maths teachers

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

  1. I agree with all of that.
  2. We are far from being at that point. [​IMG] Although I would consider home education, yes. There are distance learning programmes for both primary and secondary level available.
    We live too far from the nearest school, educating according to my own country's curriculum, and I don't think I'd be happy sending offspring off to boarding school at home. The bilingual aspect is a further worry...since foreign languages seem to have a rather low value here.
    An alternative would be the IB, which I'd look into when we have to cross that bridge. Although, again, there aren't many schools around here offering that. However, who knows what state secondary education here will be like in a few years. I might be pleasantly surprised...
    I think it's just because I don't quite understand how anyone can know by Y9 which subjects they will continue to need in the future and which they can just drop. (In Y9, I planned to study aerospace engineering...by Y11, I wanted to work for the foreign ministry.)
  3. CarrieV

    CarrieV Lead commenter

    Me too!
  4. hairdo

    hairdo Occasional commenter

    I think this is a real issue. On my PGCE course (Primary by the way) I felt like everyone was competent when it came to maths, and understanding the mathematical concepts behind what we had to teach children.
    Since then I have been on KS2 courses where there is a high proportion of teachers who just do not understand the maths themselves,and don't necessarily enjoy teaching the subject. To me, this is unacceptable.
    There is obviously a lot of sensitivity regarding the subject of my original post and some defensiveness. By specialist, I don't mean someone with a maths degree, or a secondary teacher. I simply mean a teacher who is competent and confident teaching across levels P-6, so they understand the continuity and progression.
    It is a child's right to have a competent teacher, surely. A year of poor maths teaching significantly affects pupil progress and enjoyment of the subject in a way thatpoor teaching of other subjects maybe does not.
  5. hairdo

    hairdo Occasional commenter

    But someone bad, or not competent at a subject, including their own understanding of basic concepts is nearly always bad!
  6. hairdo

    hairdo Occasional commenter

    I totally agree.
    Yes I do. I think it is not acceptable to have weak teaching of the basics at primary level in particular. Poor basic skills deny children access to the curriculum, at primary level and beyond. It gets to a point where it is almost impossible to catch up.
    I totally agree. A lot of English can be assessed by outcome, as can other subjects. Maths is different. You have highlighted a real problem that I think is a key issue . If they can not do the maths ie understand the concepts in a way that allows them to apply them then maths comes to a stop. Kids end up doing the same old stuff pre level 4 over and over again. A weak understanding of maths concepts can often be attributed to poor teaching of the concepts in the first place. Hence the need for primary teachers with at least a level of competence in the subject themselve, and specialists within schools, who could be the regular class teacher, or otherwise,

  7. hairdo

    hairdo Occasional commenter

    I have taught all ages so not a secondary teacher. I am in fact primary trained with a science specialism.
    Your possibly outlines that there is a problem.
    I think learning tables is a positive thing. I don't necessarily think year 7's will all know their times tables back to front etc but I think they should at least have strategies in place to work them out and write them down quickly by adding if they are stuck.
    Times tables can be rote learned so you don't necessrily need to be the most competent maths teacher to get them to do this!
  8. ah - now - area of confusion - this is not i would mean, and i suspect i am far from alone, by specialist. yes, i would expect primary teachers to have an understanding of and ability to teach maths across all the year groups in their school (not necessarily R-6 as there are many separate infant and junior schools) and an understanding (for junior) of infant maths, though not necessarily the competance to teach it - and for both, an understanding of what is expected hen the children move up to the next stage.
    i had thought by 'specialist' you meant teachers who went from class to class/year group to year group teaching only maths, and displacing the regular class teacher in the maths lessons - which would be impractical to say the least, even if matched to ppa cover.

  9. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    Why would it be impractical?

    It's what we do in secondary all the time. It's what Independent Prep schools do all the time.
  10. hairdo

    hairdo Occasional commenter

    By specialist I do mean can teach across the whole primary spectrum effectively ie could competently teach at each level however this is organised. I think using specialists to do the maths lessons for primary teachers who struggle with maths is the way forwards.
    I would also at least expect that secondary teachers could teach competently from level 2 and above ie everyone should be competent in the key stage above and below where they are teaching. It really does matter that teachers know where there students are coming from and going so the weaker students are supported properly and the stronger are extended properly.
    For some schools, teaching maths as part of teaching as a regular class teacher is not working. This is what I am trying to address. There are plenty of highly skilled maths teachers at Primary level but certainly not enough...and there are too many who do not teach maths well and these are doing children a disservice for the rest of their time in school.

  11. I am a primary trained maths specialist who has only ever taught in secondary schools. I only qualified 5 years ago and out of 27 of us that qualified only 4 felt confident in teaching maths in primary! Is it any wonder that pupils are arriving in secondary with the attitude that they 'can't do it' and are so confused that they won't even try. I would love to teach maths in primary but only maths and can't.
  12. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    In most other fields of business, employers interested in improved practices would be keen to find square pegs to fit their occasional square holes.

    Not so in teaching - at least in the state sector.

    If you want to teach primary maths, apply to the independent sector. They're often rather keen on employing specialists.
  13. Guish

    Guish New commenter

    I guess there's less bureaucracy in the independent sector and they're free to choose people that match their needs.

  14. hairdo

    hairdo Occasional commenter

    This is what I would like to do too, so fingers crossed that one day maths only teachers will be considered in primary schools.

  15. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    I'll say again, this is the norm in independent schools and there's no reason why it can't be done in state primaries.

    Other than, "we've never done it that way".
  16. hairdo

    hairdo Occasional commenter

    I agree. Roll on the day when State primaries consider doing it too. In my mind, it makes perfect sense!

  17. I did observations in an independent school, using specialist maths teachers, before I started training. Might have just been that school...but I came out of it thinking "Oh dear, if primary schools here are all this dire and silent..." I wasn't impressed. At all. Granted, their kids were silent, obedient and possibly worked fine independently. (My current class struggle with all of these things and they have the capacity to drive me nuts on a daily basis.) However, there was no joy in this lesson. No fun, no excitement. By that I don't mean the idea of edutainment (my class understood the meaning of the words "What did your last trained monkey die of then?" very early on in the year...). I mean the excitement when my top group get something and are keen to try it out and desperate to be allowed to work a problem out on the board, that they might have just understood (we worked through the BBC KS3 Bitesize Ratio questions today,...goodness, they are easy to entertain...as an add-on to our work on proportion). I mean the "Oh!! Miss! There's a pattern!! Can I put the next ones on??" coming from the child, who has been stuck on a 2a since KS1, when looking at common multiples.
    We are baking cakes tomorrow,...in Maths. First, though, we are working out fractions of amounts, and then we scale them up or down to make our recipe fit. Could have used the textbook. However, I like food and it fits nicely both with our English and Science work. :)
    Some of my kids had a secondary maths teacher for Maths last year and they didn't make any progress all year (I think he was better with the older ones,...and those above Level 4). I didn't realise until it was too late, because even though I frequently asked for feedback on their performance, I was only ever told they were doing fine. Not moving by even one sublevel is not "doing fine", especially not, if compared with an average of 3 sublevels for my own group. I found teaching sets interesting, but I had most of my own class anyway. Didn't make me a maths specialist, though.
  18. My exact sentiments! I am primary trained with specialist Mathematics. The same problem seem to exist everywhere.. Worse though is the fact that Elementary teachers are not trained to teach Mathematics content for elementary schools in Teachers' College.

    Given the sub standard teaching one gets in elementary schools from teachers, who did not like the subject and did not understand its concepts or context; an elementary school teacher is really given basket to carry water, when asked to teach mathematics.

    I do firmly believe that elementary schools should find a way to identify those teachers who are mathematics specialist and use them to teach across the grades. The results would have been so much different. In fact, I think they would be doing the children a big favour. Teachers in High school lives would have been so much easier.

    I have taught Middle to High school Mathematics in five different countries. I have seen students who are proclaimed haters of mathematics come to love and understand, so called difficult concepts.
    Why the change in behaviour? Because, you see, I love Mathematics. I love to teach it and I can manipulate it effectively to meet the need of any child in my class. I do not have to research in front of my class to teach a concept. I know what the concept is and how it relates to life. The children can then relate.
    Now, I put it to you... if mathematics continues to be taught in isolation and treated with dread and fear there is absolutely noway there will be improvement.

    I am saying, if any elementary school leader is brave enough to step out and do the right thing for the students and try this method of using real mathematics teachers as Mathematics specialist ; Identify those of us who are passionate about it; who understand it enough to bring it to life for others, we would see phenomenal changes in the attitudes and performance in Mathematics.

    I learnt this and came home to share it with my country, but they too are not interested. So the irony of it all. I am an excellent Mathematics teacher, I have been told... I have to now start looking to leave home again to teach in another county... Well just so you all know I am now available and looking. I am getting the feeling that if you leave you are not welcome back into the system no matter how much you have to offer.
  19. hairdo

    hairdo Occasional commenter

    I agree...the teacher needs to love maths and understand the subject well enough to be able to manipulate it. I don't think it is possible to teach maths effectively with a superficial understanding as it won't be possible to identify where the gaps in learning are for those who struggle, or to extend those who are high fliers.
  20. hairdo

    hairdo Occasional commenter

    ..but it does make you competent at teaching the subject. There ARE competent maths teachers around in primary schools, but there are also those that do not understand the subject well enough themselves to be able to teach it effectively ie give kids the skills they need to progress as maths becomes more abstract in the higher school years. These teachers are doing kids a disservice and it is wrong that they can potentially kill off maths for kids from an early age.
    This is not aboout the competent teachers of maths/numeracy. More about what should be done to address those that do not teach well. It is about schools all having in place competent maths teachers even if they just use the better teachers in the school to teach acrossyear groups. Or employing someone as a subject teacher to ensure every child has the best possible opportunity to progress as a numerate human being.

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