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What makes a good maths teacher and is there a shortage?

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by something_more_original, Jul 8, 2010.

  1. Going back to the original question if I may, I am in a very similar situation as you and totally empathise with your situation.
    I too have experience of tutoring and volunteer teaching / coaching in the past. I have just turned 40, I have a 3 week old son (my 3rd) and am now 3 weeks away from starting my OU PGDE (the Scottish equivalent of
    the PGCE). It was a really tough call to give up a perfectly good job to pursue this and even now I am still wondering if I have done the right thing and indeed if I will be any good.
    The fact that you asked these questions and have these concerns means that it matters to you about being a good teacher and that therefore you will do everything that you can to indeed be one. The experience from before proves this kind of thing is in your blood and going into it now means you will already have good experience of life - of the real world, of interacting with real people, of how you can only earn respect, its not a god given right etc etc.
    However I also feel that you should definitely get time at a school to see how you find it, how you bond with the teachers and how you fit in generally. But with the little one, that's going to be very tricky. I don't know what your circumstances are with partner, father of the child etc, but my wife is totally behind me doing this - if she wasn't I wouldn't have considered it at all.
    From the advice given to me, teaching seems to be a combination of knowledge, enthusiasm, humour & originality and as long as we can maintain this, by all accounts you will get the respect and the enjoyment. That's what I am banking on anyway. I hope this helps and good luck with the little one :)
  2. pipipi

    pipipi New commenter

    Is there a shortage? Try reading this.
    IMO there is a shortage of Maths teachers.
    However there may <u>not be adverts for maths jobs</u> as heads have got creative with solutions ( LSAs taking groups, english teachers taking a group each etc, and lots of other solutions).
    last time I enquired TES charged about &pound;400 per advert (but I'm happy to be corrected on this) and a few adverts during the year could get very costly. People then advertise on mymaths etc. LEAs go to Ireland to snap up NQTs and even further abroad. If they are really desperate it can be a solution to get a strong-discipline PE teacher in for certain groups so at least they aren't missing chairs at the end of lessons.

    I feel sorry for someone who has just finished their training expecting there to be a job waiting for them. Bear in mind though that at this point of term most jobs have 'gone' because they have come up with a solution (hopefully a maths teacher, but probably not).
    My advice would be to contact schools direct. Find out the name of HOD Maths and go and meet them for 10 minutes. It will show you are keen, and they will know where the local shortages are. They will also bear you in mind for appointments next time. Good luck
  3. DM

    DM New commenter

    You paint such a distorted picture of the true situation that I find it difficult to empathise with you. It would be crass to do a Norman Tebbit and tell you to "Get on your bike!" but it would have the unexpected fringe benefit of supplying you with a handy pair of rubber rings to get your lifeguarding career off to a buoyant start.
    Say which area you are in and I expect someone in your region might private message you to advise you which local schools nearby that are not fully staffed. You have to understand that you probably have missed the boat (no pun intended) as most schools will now have reluctantly decided to deploy non-specialists to teach mathematics for next year in order to finish their timetables. It is not realistic to expect schools to approximately &pound;1,200 per TES advert week after week in the last few weeks of term. Have you signed up with any agencies as they would probably be able to find you a full-time position within days?
  4. DM

    DM New commenter

    ..and the rest!
    It is &pound;400 for the lowest cost ONLINE advert only.
    A "Gold" online advert (nine times greater exposure than the basic ad) costs &pound;900.
    Then you need to add the print advert.
    A small 12 cm x 2 cm mono advert costs an additional &pound;600.
    A 16 cm x 4 cm colour advert costs an additional &pound;2240.
  5. I wouldn't worry about the maths, it's the kids you need to worry about. The main thing in secondary schools is having the ability to control the class.
    As far as vacancies are concerned; there appear to be a lot advertised but it depends on which part of the country that you live. I was a mature PGCE student and initially found a school, but I regretted taking the job after being there for two weeks. I hated it. Since leaving that post in 2004 I have never worked full time again. I have sent out over 300 applications and had about 5 or 6 interviews. I worked as supply for a while but even that dried up when the dreaded cover supervisor arrived on the scene.
    If I were you, and if you are reasonably happy doing your current job, stick at it. Teaching isn't what it's cracked up to be.
  6. I actually had a call this afternoon from an agency offering me a telephone interview for a job in London. A bit far from Pembrokeshire but perhaps the picture isn't as bleak as I thought!

    I still stand by my original point that I think the shortage in teachers is overhyped. Many thanks to DM and pipipi for their recent helpful posts.
  7. Maths_Mike

    Maths_Mike New commenter

    Ofcourse you satnd by your original point because despite evidence to the countary from people who are actually doing the job you think you know better.

    Good luck with getting a job and even better luck for the children yopu end up teaching
  8. Nazard

    Nazard New commenter

    Ah - now this puts things into a little perspective.
    It would seem, in many cases, to be reasonable to travel a little way to work, perhaps even to the next-door county. When you live in Pembrokeshire you have sea on several sides, so there isn't as much "next-door" to access. Presumably this means fewer children to teach and therefore fewer schools and so fewer teachers are required.
    It is also worth bearing in mind that the Welsh education system is not identical to the English one, so there may be difference in recruitment.

  9. Hi
    Teaching maths is a fantastic job and one I have loved doing for a very long time ( 30+ years to date). My advice would be to contact a local secondary school and ask if you can shadow someone in the department for a day or two and chat to them about their daily routine. It is hard work but amazingly rewarding. We need good maths teachers whether in their first year of teaching or oldies like me! I learn something new about teaching every day from interns, NQTs, other teachers. There are fantastic resources to draw from, look at MrBarton's maths page, cre8ate, bowland, ncetm, kangaroomaths to start with! The liverpool roadshow, cars in motion, autograph........
    Let me know if you want any help getting started or making a decision!
  10. First of all, fantastic news! Really good to hear about new people thinking about entering the profession!. Glad the rustiness is slowly disappearing :)
    I think school was a lot different back in 1995. I think before you take the plunge, I would try and get some experience working in a school. I work in an inner London school and energy, enthusiasm, classroom management are all important things. I find that having natural subject knowledge by default helps leaps and bounds - because if you don't know your stuff, the kids will pick up on it from a while...
    I think before you make a decision, I think your goal should be to get some work experience in a tough school and a good school. When I did my PGCE at the Institute of Education, they arranged my two teaching placements which gave me a great experience.
    As the Director of E-learning at my school, I have noticed Maths teachers use ICT more and more. I think Maths is blessed with a lot of fantastic gaming /online resources to make Maths interesting and fun for children.
    In my opinion the hardest part of teaching is the emotional and relentless challenges to mind, body and soul working in an inner London soul. It is certainly tough but very rewarding and fun at the same time.
    Good Luck
    Naimish Gohil
    Director of E-learning Henry Compton School
    Creator of http://www.showmyhomework.co.uk/teachers

  11. Naimish, schools needs teachers like you to raise
    the enthusiasm and attainment of kids.
    The reality in many schools is that your admirable aims
    cannot be put into practice.
  12. I appreciate your good wishes with regrads to the job search. My point was not that there weren't vaccancies but that the shortage of Maths teachers was, in my opinion, overstated when I applied for the PGCE. Given that only I can know how strongly the statement of this shortage was put to me before starting the course I hope you will concede that on that small point I am entitled to my opinion that the shortage was overstated.

    On the more important issue of whether or not there will acctually be vaccancies available when the OP completes her course, the weight of opinion in the forum has convinced me that the vaccancies do exist but that one needs to be creative when searching and not just rely on TES and Eteach especially this late in the process. Therefore I was wrong to give the impression (if I did so) that jobs are not currently available but would still advise the OP to apply as early as possible for a Maths job and not to rely on the shortage (as I have) to provide employment.

    Finally, Maths_Mike, in future please do not try to derive conclusions about my teaching ability from my opinion on the shortage of Maths teachers.
  13. I find this a hard pill to swallow! You seem to be implying that graduates of mathematics are unsuitable teachers? I apologise if I have misunderstood.
    I have just completed my Maths degree and will be starting my PGCE in September, teaching is all I have ever wanted to do and my Maths degree was just a way into teaching however I managed to get a 2:1! But does this mean I'm going to be a bad teacher? I certainly hope not and hope this is not what you are implying in your post!
    I truly believe that a 'good maths teacher' is someone who wants to teach but also someone who wants to teach maths! How can you expect to teach a subject and inspire others to have passion for that subject if you dont have yourself? It all sounds a bit hypocritical to me! I had a maths teacher while at school who was actually a drama teacher, there was a serious lack of respect for him (from students) because it felt like he was preaching something he didnt believe in, would you listen to a Catholic Mass given by a Muslim Imam?
    Please dont get me wrong I understand waht you are saying when you say a degree doesnt automatically make you a fantastic teacher, but the passion alone doesnt either!
  14. Perhaps Im wrong but when I trained we were told our title was "Teacher of children specialising in mathematics". Subject knowledge is obviously important but surely the ability to interest the class, manage behaviour and ensure everyone makes progress is more important. In a recent OFSTED i got an outstanding teaching my subject as well as when I had to cover history (which i only got a B in GCSE and havent studied since). Our department is full of highly qualified maths teachers but last year when a colleague was off on the sick we had an ICT specialist covering who was superb. It didn't negatively effect the kids learning - infact her knowledge of ICT helped enthuse them more. Surely the forum should be about what makes a good teacher rather than specifically a maths teacher?? SUbject knowledge without the other attributes doesnt make you a good teacher, and simply relying on that can have a negative effect on learning. Not everyone will be interested in algebra and simply lecturing for an hour will lose their interest.
  15. Chazette

    Chazette New commenter

    Neither does the other way round. You need a balance of both subject knowledge AND teaching ability. This applies to all subjects, including maths. I've been a swimming teacher for 6 years and the amount of teachers who come in to assist with only a limited knowledge of swimming is awful, they pass on the wrong information - which could potentially be dangerous or cause injury or have no interest in the sport and hence the kids dont care either. The same applies in a classroom. Without subject knowledge, surely you run the risk of a topic being taught wrong or bits which may be important to be missed? I for example am one of the worst people in the world when it comes to spelling/grammar, and hence would hinder an english class!
    I feel that is unfair and rather patronising to say that all graduate teachers will just lecture a class for an hour on algebra. My Mathematics degree has given me a deeper understanding into my subject, and i have learnt so many fascinating things that i could bring into a classroom, i.e. the history, and where certain topics could lead you. For example during some work experience a year 8 class were introduced to Pythagoras' Theorem. I was able help make the lesson interesting by using my knowledge of his history to give some facts and anecdotes about him (apparently, pupils love madmen!!).
    As said before, how can you enthrall pupils with a subject if you yourself have no interest in it whatsoever?
  16. My son spent yrs 3-6 working with an LSA 1:1 on Maths. She was a marvellous lady and very inspiring BUT her maths skills were not strong nor was her ability to work out why he wasn't progressing.
    He has now, in yr 8, spent the last 4 lessons (4hours) going through the sheets I mentioned on what you should be able to do at each level. He has done no work in his exercise book since 2nd July. (Of course that is no iindication that work hasn't been done I know). O.K.having a Maths degree does not necessarily make you a good maths teacher but then some classes are ending up with not only a teacher that has no degree in maths but isn't a particularly good teacher (for these classes?) anyway.
  17. A good teacher can teach anything. I hate maths but teach it in primary every day. I think the danger with subject specialism over skilled teacher is a problem. As long as you are enthusiastic, observant of needs, good at explaining things on many different levels, flexible in your approach and able to get down to the kids level to make it meaningful you will be fine. I was a late PGCE (37) and have managed. I believe that in any subject you just have to ensure your understanding is sufficiently broad and a couple of steps ahead of the children to teach it easily. If people are good teachers they can teach. If they are brilliant at a subject they are just brilliant at a subject and that is where it ends. If the two go together all the better.
  18. I disagree

    I have taught things outside my specialism but have understood that I am limiting the students through my own limitations

    A good teacher is better than a bad teacher but a good teacher with subject knowledge and enthusiasm is essential if students are going to understand as well as learn
  19. DM

    DM New commenter

    For 'tis the sport to have the engineer
    Hoist with his own petard
  20. mevdog1971

    mevdog1971 New commenter

    excellent summary of the situation from henrythe9th; having just done a pgce i have been fortunate to get a job in a good school but if i had been been faced with working in a similar environment to my 2nd placement i would have probably not entered my nqt year. most "bog standard comps" are pretty dire and soul destroying. it is unsurprising that these schools do not attract high quality candidates.

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