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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. layhing

    layhing New commenter

    Just done my pgce in secondary Maths after bringing up a family and having done a Master in Science and Chemical Engineering at Imperial College many years ago.I found my degree and knowledge very useful. I have been tutoring children for 8 years in the subject, but tutoring is nothing like a classroom in a normal inner city comprehensive.
    It's hard to be a teacher and manage all the complexities of a classroom. From having children of dismal abilities to having to deal with behavioural issues from kids who are really disadvantaged.
    But it is interesting and if you are constant and work hard during your pgce in spite of all that can happen, then you will be fine. Suffering during your training is almost inevitable. I found that the teachers around you can be very difficult to deal with than the pupils. A lot of old teachers hate PGCe students and I don't know why? We are almost always give the dirty job and release them from workload.
    The clue to success is to do what you are told to do and to ask for help if you need it. So don't be afraid to ask for support if you have a difficult class.
    About the scarcity of Maths teachers... well, don't know. I still have not found a job, I started applying too late and right now, there are no maths positions in the London area.
    What worries me more from all these comments and something that I could testify is the poor maths some of the children from primary bring to secondary schools. Maths is a wonderful and interesting subject and is such a pity that some teachers don't think so. Surely they had very bad maths teachers and the tragedy is that they have translated that to their pupils.
    Passion and commitment for your subject. Lower ability children teach you more maths than you can ever imagine. Differentiate and conquer.
    Make things interesting without overdoing it. Keep it simple and be positive. Children need consistency and a lot of them crave for some discipline and care.
    Good luck. Teaching is rewarding and wonderful, but you just have to have the right attitude. I only hope I can find a job when September comes...
  2. Having just given up being a maths teacher four years after going the GTP route I would advise you to think very hard about why you want to become a maths teacher. If you hate your present job, then it's probably worth a try.
    I am now a stay-at-home dad, but one of my reasons for packing in teaching was that I did very little teaching. My time in the classroom was mostly spent on crowd control and hence was very frustrating. However, there are lots of teachers out there who love teaching (or so they say, but there again they don't have the same option as you - i.e. another career to fall back on).
    Try and observe in some schools and make sure that you have a look at inexperienced teachers, NQTs and teachers who are having a hard time of it. The school will probably be reluctant to let you do this but I wish that I had seen some teachers losing control and having an awful time in the classroom before I started my GTP. If I had then I think that I would have stuck with engineering.
    ...but that's only my view - and I'm out of it now.
    Regarding the shortage of maths teachers, in my experience many schools seem to have a high turnover of maths teachers. I have also heard that in these hard times, many people are turning to teaching, but I have no idea how true it is or what subjects they are (or aren't) targeting.
    Good luck.
  3. Go for it. I turn 50 this year and have just come through the most difficult year of my life. I spent the past year as a maths GTP and I have never worked so hard in all my life. If I had to do it again I would have taken less money and done the PGCE. The initial training is more thorough and you don't have to produce as much evidence. I started looking for a job in January and was offered at my first interview. There were only two candidates.
  4. I think you are very very lucky, You don't say where you got your job. There are 20 or more going for maths jobs in the west mids with candidates from all across the UK and up to 7 being interviewed for one post. This hardly points to a "maths shortage"
    PS. The West Mids is pretty big
  5. DM

    DM New commenter

    In your previous post, you stated "up to 6" were interviewed. Now it is "up to 7". At this rate, you could be competing against 9 by this time next week.
  6. In response to those who have still not got jobs for September and are prepared to move to get work (crucial), I can now say that my experience of one agency has been pretty positive. Having applied for the job on the Monday, I had a telephone interview on the Tuesday, travelled from Pembrokeshire to Kent on the Wednesday for the Inteview on Thursday and was offered the job on Thursday afternoon. There are jobs available for those who are prepared to look for work and know where to look. If, like me, you don't know where to look ask an agency that does. (I won't put the Agency's name in the post but let me know if you want their details).
    To say that there is a shortage of Maths teachers is probably a stretch. No Maths class is likely to be without someone teaching them Maths for a significant period of time. Schools will draft non-specialists or pay for a Maths supply to do the work meaning the pupils with have a "teacher of Maths" for the majority of the year. What people really mean by a shortage of Maths teachers is that there is high demand for appropriately qualified, able specialists which is not being satisfied. Therefore, due to the seasonal nature of vaccanes and vacancy advertising, it is not inconsistent for someone to tell you (I have learnt) that there is a huge demand for Maths specialists and also that no Maths jobs are being advertised. People considering the PGCE need to go in with their eyes open and apply early. Don't be persueded by hysteria about year round shortages.
  7. You've hit the nail on the head already. It's all about giving the kids confidence in their own ability. Be prepared to explain things in at least 3 ways - visual , kinethestic and auditory. Use the kids to explain to each other. Use real life examples if possible. If you have enthusiasm for the subject then it will rub off. ALWAYS be positive in the way you speak to the kids. If they don't understand then that means that you have not explained it properly. Most kids are scared about talking to the teacher to say they don't understand - you have to be approachable - share your experience with them, never say 'that's easy!' it's not to them!! Encourage them to get help at home but get the work signed to say that they have had help. It all about the kids being honest with you about how they really feel and you being prepared to repeat instructions with out them feeling stupid. I use small whiteboard in class, if they kids get things wrong they can erase it quickly it also helps me to see quickly who is getting it right and wrong and then target those in need. Use group work a lot. I could go on for ever - my favourite class is the kids that come at the beginning of the year having heard all their lifes - 'you are not good at math' and its my job to change that.
  8. Whilst I realise that you have your own agenda here ... I find this comment really offensive

    I have been a teacher for 25 years, I would say that it was (and is) a vocation for me

    I have always been passionate about maths and my job

    I have worked in some pretty rough schools and dealt with my fair share of issues but I recognise that teaching has many different aspects and that each one can bring its own satisfaction

    Many are not cut out to be teachers ... I was not cut out to be many other things (engineer/accountant/banker/etc) but for those who can do it well, teaching is a fantastic career choice
  9. Puppa2014

    Puppa2014 New commenter

    <font face="Times New Roman">Struggling to find a job. I am on M6. All jobs filled with NQTs. Live in Bristol. Do not mind to move to London. Any agencies you know can help? Really appreciate.</font> <font face="Times New Roman">Alla on allawilcox@hotmail.com</font>
  10. OK, first time i've posted on here but felt i really wanted to respond to the original post.

    Thing that make a good maths teacher;

    1) Being a good teacher. Someone who really wants to help the pupils and is prepared to work hard to improve their classroom skills.
    2) Someone who understands that maths isn't easy for some people. (Strange things to say but there are way too many maths teacher who don't get this).
    3) Someone who understands that maths can be fun.
    4) Someone who understands that maths is all about confidence coupled with the ability to boost pupil confidence.
    As for the different school argument going on - every school and every class brings equal but dierent challenges. I've had tough classes where controlling behaviour is the key and other perfectly behaved classes where providing challenge is the key.

    Anyway, original poster - go for it. Best job in the world.
  11. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    I have been following this thread with interest - and sadness when the old idea that a Maths degree makes you a <u>bad</u> Maths teacher comes up. There have been some very good replies, but I thought it time to add my own thoughts.
    1. A love of the subject is a prerequisite to be a really good Maths teacher. Without it, you may be able to get some of your students through to a decent GCSE, but how are you going to persuade the reluctant that Maths does make a difference, or the talented to go on to A level and maybe beyond?
    2. Good subject knowledge is required, even if it is built up over time. It is not enough to know how to apply a technique; you should be able to explain why it works. If you go for it, then I would advise you to keep working on it, learning new material so that you can teach new courses. Don't be content just to do GCSE or limit yourself to your favourite applied modules at Q level. My own degree was over 20 years old when I started training (GTP, and it worked for me) and I felt very rusty, but plenty of practice brought it all back. I've just completed my 6th year as a qualified teacher, and now feel confident of almost all the Maths we cover. For those without a degree with a fair amount of Maths, it is harder, but you can stil succeed if you make the effort and have the talent.
    3. You need to be patient. If the first way of explaining something doesn't work, try others. Don't be afraid to let somebody else in the class have a go; they may give you ideas. When somebody is having problems, try to understand what they are thinking so that you can adress their misconceptions. If you manage this, you remove the potential barrier between teacher with Maths degree and student.
    4. On a related note, be prepared for students to come up with other approaches to a problem. A good mathematician will be able to see what is going on; a weak mathematician is more likely to reject a sound train of reasoning because it isn't what she/he has prepared.
    5. Ask yourself "do I enjoy and have an aptitude for teaching/training?" When considering a career change, I realised that people I had trained had succeeded. For example, two of them were promoted to my job moved on. Think about your own experience.
    I think that there is still a shortage, but you can't expect to walk into a job. You will need to be able to write a decent application, and teach a sample lesson with enthusiasm and some skill. There are more people applying to learn to teach Maths; I suspect that many of those who do it because they can't thinlk of anything else to try will fail. Over half my department last year was over 50, and only one teacher was below 40, and I don't think we are very unusual. As teachers retire, there wil be jobs.
    I was lucky enough to end up in a good school (where I trained) with an amazingly supportive department, so it is easy for me to advise you to have a go. With children, the holidays are quite an incentive. Think about it, and if you think you are likely to have what it takes, then apply.
    Good luck; please let us know how you get on.

  12. I agree about the mini whiteboards....they are an amazing tool. My kids started getting better results the moment I started using them.
  13. DM

    DM New commenter

    Mine too. After drawing thousands of penises, they all went on to achieve distinctions in their life drawing classes.
  14. For some reason my students could never seem to work out why I wanted them to turn the whiteboards around so I could see what they had written on the back. (Ours were double sided, plain one side and square paper on the other)
    I told them that anything they wrote needed to be spelt correctly or they would have to write it out on the board. Amazingly this cut down on a lot of nonsense and I made my artists draw larger pictures on the board. Some of these pictures would have won prizes but the students always behaved when my classes were being observed and thankfully they never drew personal cartoons.
    I still use white boards, as a tutor, but I never get any nonsense now as the students don't have an audience to play to.
  15. DalekTeacher

    DalekTeacher New commenter

    This has really interested me as a topic but tried to get some courage to post a reply. I do agree with some people on here who say that its all well and good having a degree, but its about being able to deliver what knowledge you have that is the starting point when you are teaching. One of my lecturers at Uni was like this - was the most intellectual and had a vast knowledge base but when it came to breaking it down for students, it just didn't happen.
    For me, I have worked in two different schools with vastly different abilities. I had to learn a lot about managing behaviour and before any of my lessons could get of the ground, that is what I had to rectify. Subject knowledge is a vital asset but I think being able to incorporate a range of learning activities to engage pupils and also use classroom management techniques are needed as well.
    I couldn't teach this subject myself but you all sound like Maths teachers that I wish I had when I was at school.
  16. No offense, but if you have a 7 week old baby you don't have time to do a PGCE.
    Maths has more marking than most (if not all other subjects) if done properly.
    A PGCE will take an awful lot of time if done properly, with all the lesson plans that need writing and all the lesson evaluations that should be done.

    So, yes there are shortages, but with your circumstances I'd wait a year or two.
  17. Then we have some damn stupid people in senior positions (SLT level) at our school!
    They walk into my GCSE lesson looking at Module 9 or 10 level work and back out quickly after seeing me for whatever reason.
    So, if you're talking about GCSE level at C grade, then yes, most intelligent people can pick up a rote version quickly. Same as I passes a GCSE Foundation Geography paper (without doing any work) at grade C having not done anything on the subject since Comp some 25+ years ago and only until what is now year 9!

    Personally, I don't think anyone should teach higher level Maths unless they have a degree. You need a longer term view of what the subject is about.

  18. DM

    DM New commenter

    The English Forum, for one, would certainly disagree.
  19. In response to a couple of the points by brambo:
    (1) Which other careers would you be expected to perfrom in given a baby of that age?
    (2) A 2.2 maths degree from 20 years gets people quite comfortably on QTS routes. WOuld you say this is a suitable background in comparison to a English degree holder who is fluent in the current A level and FM A level?
    (3) The top teachers will confirm that the AFL/APP in maths is far more favourable than most other subjects and note the acronym AFL/APP over marking
    These are the bits I can remember reading and shall have another look through.
  20. I have found the key to being a good teacher is enjoying what you do. If you enjoy it, you can motivate your pupils and hopefully get them to enjoy (or at least not hate) your subject too.
    And be yourself, each teacher has their own style and ways that work for them. Kids can see through an act.
    Finally, there is a shortage of maths teachers, which is a shame as it is a great subject, so if you are interested go for it. Alot of schools are happy to have you in to observe lessons and this would be a great way to see if the job is for you. Best of luck if you do apply.

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