Category Archives: Behind the Mathematician

Behind the Mathematician: Chris Smith

Since the Assessment section on Building a Department is taking me longer than I thought, and I’ve been held up with matters beyond the classroom, I thought I’d keep avid TatEoC readers happy with a few more episodes in the Behind the Mathematician series!

Our lucky person in the spotlight in this episode is Chris Smith. If you are a Maths teacher and you’ve used the internet (that’ll be most of you) then you’ll have encountered something Chris-related. Be it his Maths Relays on TES, his brilliant weekly newsletter (the puzzles are brilliant) or his Twitter contributions, Chris is one of those very giving and yet I feel underappreciated contributors to the Mathematics teaching community. I understand he’s a bit of a musician too! Time to give him some deserved focus…

What is your name/alias?

I’m Chris Smith but aliases include…on Twitter: @aap03102, in class: Mr Smith, at home: Dad to Daisy, Heidi and Logan…

What is your role?

I teach Maths at Grange Academy, Kilmarnock, Scotland. I’ve been there since my NQT year in 2006 and love the place. I dabbled in the role of Acting Principal Teacher for a year or so but yearned to be back in the classroom without the distractions involved in managing a department!

How would you describe your teaching style?

Energetic, geeky, enthusiastic.

What made you become involved in Maths education?

After four years at Strathclyde University, I had a 1st Class Honours Degree in Maths but no clue what to do with it! I embarked on a PhD researching “Mathematical Modelling of Blood Flow in the Human Placenta” (some details appear in this article: www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/articles/article/christophersmithcolumn1.htm/). I found day-to-day research in an office boring. But I loved speaking about Maths. I was invited to present my work at the House of Commons on PiDay 2005 and to several Conferences including the 5th World Congress of Biomechanics in Munich. Teaching Strathclyde undergraduate students in lectures and tutorials confirmed that teaching was definitely the perfect fit for me. I completed my PGDE and have never regretted the decision to be a Maths teacher!

Beyond your main role, what other projects/work are you involved in?

Some of you reading this will know me as “that newsletter guy”. Each week of term time, I create a Maths newsletter which arrives in the inbox of over 1200 readers delivering puzzles, lesson ideas, resources to check out, handy websites and a generous sprinkling of geeky Maths trivia. If you want to subscribe (for free!) then just email me aap03102@gmail.com and I’ll happily add you to the mailing list.

I’m a member of the Scottish Mathematical Council and regularly deliver workshops to teachers at training events.

My friend, Fraser, and I created Pi-Wire a free program you can download to visualise π and other Mathematical constants! Worth a look:http://piwire.co.uk/2013/08/would-you-like-a-slice-of-%CF%80/

Jiggered are one of Scotland’s most popular ceilidh bands and most weekends you’ll find me playing piano somewhere with the band we formed back at Strathclyde in 2002 (http://www.jiggered.com).

What do you enjoy about your career?

Imagine getting up out of bed every morning, heading off, doing something you love, and then making your way home. That’s me. They actually pay me to talk to young people about Maths! I work alongside a number of great colleagues who make the journey even better.

What do you think are the main challenges that maths teachers face?

Time management. More and more is expected of us all the time. Paperwork mounts. Box-ticking increases. New initiatives compete for our few remaining minutes.

Prioritise your precious time. Plan lessons. Teach well. Don’t get bogged down in admin!

What advice do you have for people just starting out in Maths education, or who would like to become involved?

Here’s my advice. Ask yourself two questions. Do you enjoy working with young people? Do you have a passion for Maths? If the answer to either question is “no”, then don’t waste your time- pick another career. That’s a better option for the students and for you, in the long run. If you answered “yes” you’ve got a solid foundation that will stand you in good stead for a career in Maths teaching!

What tools/resources do you use to help you in your work?

Twitter is an excellent opportunity to find helpful, talented, generous teachers who will inspire, motivate and support you. The best ones provide glimpses into their classrooms, celebrate their successes, reflect on their disappointments and share cracking resources for the rest of us to use!

Gapminder is one of my favourite websites. Spend an entire lesson exploring it with your students- I guarantee there will be some amazing conversations.

eBay is where I pick up all kinds of props, antique calculators, costumes for bringing lessons to life.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

If you are a teacher, teach well (Romans 12.7)

Anything else you’d like to add?

My favourite Maths quote is probably: “Arithmetic is being able to count up to twenty without taking off your shoes” (Mickey Mouse)

Behind the Mathematician – Emma Bell

It’s another featured practicioner in this week’s Behind the Mathematician!

Emma Bell is a fully paid up member of Geek Club, an expert in engaging students in studying Mathematics in a myriad of ways (see below) and veritable Mathematics historian. Her workshops in conferences are must see events, and she’s always on hand for excellent advice on Twitter. Let’s hear more from Emma!

What is your name/alias?

I’m Emma Bell – @El_Timbre.

What is your role?

I’m a 2nd in Department for the Maths department at a Sixth Form College in Grimsby. In my previous job, I was a HoD at a National Challenge 11-16 school in the same town.

My role at the minute sees me coordinating the GCSE maths provision, and everything at that level including Functional Skills, and I’m looking after the Use of Maths course too which I absolutely love! As well as that, I’m in charge of our displays and our “virtual presence” – basically everything that involves a computer or the Internet.

How would you describe your teaching style?

I had a mini-epiphany whilst I was watching Johnny Ball at a recent La Salle maths conference. I teach like him! Imagine a female version with a Doctor Who obsession, and you can pretty much sum me up! I adore teaching, and my enthusiasm for my subject shines through in each of my lessons.

I taught a lesson on the Binomial Distribution recently involving the probability that your favourite Game of Thrones character lasts until at least the 3rd episode of the new series. That was after I’d done a demo of Bernoulli’s theorem of lift with a roll of kitchen paper.

What made you become involved in Maths education?

In hindsight, this was the job that I was always meant to do. I am actually trained in law, getting a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Canterbury. I always thought that I wanted to be a barrister. However, I reached a point where I felt lost. I didn’t want to be a lawyer, I didn’t like it. Contract law was too dry. Family law was too emotionally draining.

I remember sitting in a coffee shop with my Aunt, “What am I going to do with my life?” She replied “Well, you’ve always like maths, why don’t you be a maths teacher?” It was at that moment that the penny dropped. I’d be over exaggerating if I said that the clouds cleared, the sun streamed through, and I heard a chorus of angels singing, but that IS how it felt! I think of my childhood, giving my mum’s friends tables tests and writing worksheets for my little brother, and it’s obvious: I was meant to be a teacher.

Beyond your main role, what other projects/work are you involved in?

My current research project is being fed by my obsession with old maths and teaching texts! I’m writing a paper and presentation based on what we can learn from the past: what hasn’t changed? What can we apply to our teaching practice now? Along the way, I’m finding absolute gems of books on eBay and book shops, so much so that I think I need a new room to put them in. Emma’s Library. I like the sound of that! I’m reading a book from 1914 at the minute which contains a section on open/closed questioning (or interrogation as the author calls it) which has had me in stitches, but still holds good advice for teachers today.

What do you enjoy about your career?

I love the fact that my career “suits” me. Teaching in a Sixth Form suits my personality. Teaching maths suits my geekiness. Teaching, in general, is the best job in the world!

What do you think are the main challenges that maths teachers face?

I have somewhat of a bee in my bonnet at the moment about the way the government are encouraging maths teachers: holding up shining examples from all over the world, and telling us that we should emulate them, as if what we are doing isn’t good enough. So maths teachers have to face the challenge that the powers that be see them as underperforming, inadequate, and inferior. We are not. We are not. We are not. We need to make sure that people see that!

What advice do you have for people just starting out in Maths education, or who would like to become involved?

Find your own teaching personality. As a HoD and a ITT trainer, I have always encouraged my staff and trainees to be the teacher that they want to be. Observe other practitioners, yes, but don’t think that you’ll be able to transfer their “teachniques” wholesale to your own classroom. (I think I invented a new word there because of a spelling error!)

What tools/resources do you use to help you in your work?

YouTube. I use this both for class demos and homework. Some tutorials are fabulous, and mean that my students have access to someone talking them through a problem any time that they need it.
Idoceo. This mark book app on my iPad means that I have data and results at my fingertips. It also removes the annoyance of having a paper mark book where you have to cross students out if they leave, or having to add a new student at the bottom of the list instead of where they should be alphabetically!
MathsBox.org I love this site. Ready made materials that I can project on the whiteboard. They’re great quality and I know I can trust them: all important in the class! There are GCSE and A Level resources on here.
JustMaths.co.uk A treasure trove of resources that just “hit the spot”, iykwim. My favourite are the Bread and Butter resources, which I have laminated in sets for my GCSE classes. I use them for starters, to fill lulls, and for revision.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

People who read my blog will know what I’ve been through. The best advice I heard came from an episode of Doctor Who. It was shown at a time when I was quite low, and it resonated so loudly with me: https://youtu.be/IVC9WFlg2V4 Thank you Steven Moffat!

Teaching-wise, one of my old line managers said to me – don’t do anything unless you’re asked for it twice! Whilst I think that’s a bit harsh, I certainly know what he was talking about!

Anything else you’d like to add?

Just one thing: GEEKS RULE 🙂

Behind the Mathematician: Robert Smith

Behind the Mathematician returns this week with a profile of Robert Smith. It is often easy to be cynical when you’re a teacher but Rob exudes enthusiasm and passion about Mathematics teaching, as his numerous roles and conference appearances show. Rob also is very enterprising, as his tuck shop at the last National Mathematics Conference proved – he raised a large sum of money for charity and kept delegates buzzing all day fuelled by a combination of sweets and pop – good man!

Anyway – here’s Rob’s profile – concise but still as inspiring as all of the rest of the contributions so far.

What is your name/alias?

Robert J Smith, aka @RJS2212

What is your role?

Maths Teacher

MA/ATM East Midlands Branch Secretary

RI Year 8 Maths Masterclass Organiser Leicester

How would you describe your teaching style?

Heavy on technology, low on bookwork.

What made you become involved in Maths education?

Worked for family run software company, tore ligaments playing football, went to night school to learn to teach literacy and numeracy to adults, tutored GCSE, quit work to complete PGCE, teach Maths.

Beyond your main role, what other projects/work are you involved in?

Involved in Lesson Study Cluster. Have worked closely with colleagues from universities for research projects. Just started NPQML course.

What do you enjoy about your career?

EVERYTHING !!

What do you think are the main challenges that maths teachers face?

Becoming very administrative and focussed on exam success / results rather than students enjoying maths.

What advice do you have for people just starting out in Maths education, or who would like to become involved?

The MA/ATM subject associations are great for networking and finding ideas and resources. Twitter has become great for discussing ideas and lessons with colleagues..

What tools/resources do you use to help you in your work?

Dropbox instead of HDD. Too many websites to list.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

Praise the positives.

Anything else you’d like to add?

5 + 7 = 12

 

Behind the Mathematician: Theresa Young

Yes, it’s back.

Behind the Mathematician is a series dedicated to promoting the efforts of the best practicioners out in the Mathematics teaching world. This edition takes a slight diversion from previous posts.

Theresa Young is a teacher in adult education, a field that has very different challenges from the ones us secondary teachers face. I for one admire people who work in this area, quite simply for the reason that teachers like Theresa are giving many people a second chance in life or helping them move out of career ruts and going into something more fulfilling. Let’s read more!

What is your name/alias?

Theresa Young, aka @treezyoung

What is your role?

Maths teacher for Adult Community Learning in Essex.  I teach level 1 and 2 functional skills maths to students without GCSE maths. Level 2 is equivalent to a C grade at GCSE.

How would you describe your teaching style?

I would say that my teaching style is fairly structured. I start each lesson with a brainstorming task, usually based on previous learning. This serves as an informal assessment and helps to settle the students into the lesson. My main teaching involves using technology, visual aids and manipulatives to enhance learning. I believe in making maths relevant to everyday lives. The tasks we do in the class tend to be based on problem solving as this is the focus of functional skills maths. I encourage students to get vocal about maths as I think this goes a long way to develop confidences and improve skills. I love seeing the different approaches students take to problem solving and the debates that follow from this.

What made you become involved in Maths education?

Our eldest daughter had been struggling with English in primary school. Like many parents, we were concerned about her progress and were worried that she was lagging behind. We started her on the KUMON programme in a local centre. The lady who ran the centre asked me if I would help her mark some of the maths work.  I really enjoyed revisiting maths and found I was looking up the more complicated topics in my old books.

This rekindled a love of numbers in me and before long I was volunteering in our local FE college as a classroom assistant in the adult maths classes. The tutor I was working alongside was brilliant – she clearly loved her job and made it look very easy. After a short time, I plucked up the courage to tell her I was toying with the idea of studying for a PGCE and becoming a maths teacher. She was very supportive and encouraging. Within six months, I had enrolled onto a PGCE course and had a teaching job in place. I have worked for Adult Community Learning ever since. When I started teaching for real, I had such big ideas about how I would change the face of maths teaching. Three years later, I still have the same ideas but I am more realistic about what I can achieve under the constraints that we work around.

Beyond your main role, what other projects/work are you involved in?

I am delighted to be involved in @CitizenMaths which is a free on-line resource available to help adults brush up on their maths skills. The project is funded by Ufi Charitable Trust, The Institute of Education and OCR. I will be attending a focus group in April to discuss phase two of the project.

I blog about my experiences as a teacher in adult education.  This has helped me to develop my skills as an educator and as a mathematician. When I started working in FE, it felt rather isolated both in location and in the sector. Using platforms such as twitter and blogging has helped me form a network of like-minded (maths) teachers.

 What do you enjoy about your career?

I absolutely love my job! I take great pride in helping students develop their maths skills. The best part of my job is empowering students to take charge of their studies. Developing soft skills such as improved self-esteem and confidence can help promote resilience and a love of learning.  Once students begin to appreciate that learning in adulthood can be different from their school experiences, they often begin to formulate a plan for their own future. It is very rewarding for me to know that I may have helped in some small way.

What do you think are the main challenges that maths teachers face?

The main challenge I face in my role is that my students often have had bad experiences of maths from school. This results in negativity in their abilities which can create a barrier to learning. It is fair to say that most of my students join my class with a sense of dread and fear. This can be challenging for me (and the students) to overcome.

Poor numeracy skills are often linked with poor literacy skills. The focus of functional skills is using numeracy skills to solve every day problem. In my experiences, students with poor literacy skills often find the functionality of the questions demanding. As such, much of my job involves developing literacy skills to help break down the problem into manageable chunks. I have a very good relationship with our English tutor. He has given me many suggestions for helping students grasp the nature of the problem. He often uses my ‘maths’ words in his lessons to reinforce the meaning and to make the words more familiar. This is an area we collaborate on a very regular basis.

What advice do you have for people just starting out in Maths education, or who would like to become involved?

I would say brush up on the basics because if your students don’t get to grips with this, you are fighting a losing battle. You may well have to get creative in your thinking. Don’t be afraid to try new things with your class. Even if these don’t go to plan, you will have gained from the experience.

I think it is important to adopt a growth mind-set. You may need to reassure students’ many times that mistakes are all part of the learning process. Actively promote education in all forms.

What tools/resources do you use to help you in your work?

Not much! I love my interactive whiteboard and I enjoy using prezi and PowerPoint. I share these files with my students so that they can use at home especially if they are struggling. I am playing with the idea of voice recording all my presentations over the next few months as an additional facility.

We use bksb (online) as an initial and diagnostic assessment tool.  This is linked to the strict government funding regulations. Students have an online account which links to resources to help them brush up on their skills whilst at home.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

My PGCE mentor told me two very valuable pieces of advice. The first was that the students should be working much harder than me and not the other way round. Learning is an active process!

The second was about developing resilience. In my role, students often tell me about tragedies and sad events that have happened to them. The stories can be harrowing and difficult to hear. When I was first teaching, I found it very difficult to take on board all these problems. My tutor told me that I would develop a filter system – I didn’t believe so at the time. But I know that I now have that skill. That’s not to say some situations don’t get to me. They still do. But I am more able to deal with this now. I discuss problems with other members of staff and I am much quicker to escalate problems if I am struggling or if I feel the problem needs careful handling.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Teaching maths in FE is a brilliant job. It is the most rewarding job I have ever done. Like all jobs, there are many challenges to be faced but I feel ultimately, the rewards to be had are worth the effort.

Behind the Mathematician: Stephen Cavadino

Behind the Mathematician continues in its quest to publicise the best maths teachers out there. This week the feature contributor is Stephen Cavadino, the man behind cavmaths and one of the most prolific bloggers out there. Whether it’s on the reasons for being a teacher or some ideas on the use of puzzles in the classroom, Stephen’s insight is as valuable as it is comprehensive.

Oh, and anyone who knows the travails of being a parent of a (very) young ‘un and trying to make a real difference in maths teaching deserves a thumbs up from me. Enjoy!

What is your name/alias?

Stephen Cavadino, @srcav

What is your role?

KS5 leader

How would you describe your teaching style?

I’m not sure I have a specific style, so perhaps the correct answer would be “varied”. I believe that different classes need to be taught in different ways, and that different topics need to be taught in different ways also. There is no “one size fits all” lesson style that will provide the golden ticket to learners’ progress. Which itself implies that the grading of a solitary lesson is silly. Continue reading

Behind the Mathematican: Mel Muldowney

Behind the Mathematican continues in its efforts the week to discover what inspires the best Mathematics teachers and practitioners out there.

Each edition so far has been a truly fantastic insight in to these people and what they do – and this week is no exception. A few years ago JustMaths came to the forefront in my mind when I went to a CPD session in Bradford. If just for the resources JustMaths is a boon – but when you look deeper into the care, thought and attention that goes into the website, blog and resources as a whole, it is only testament to the standing of the people behind it.

This week, Behind the Mathematician features Mel Muldowney – one of the three people running JustMaths, and arch-blogger extraordinaire. Let’s find out more about the person behind the project!

What is your name/alias?

Mel Muldowney / @Just_Maths / @ReviseJustMaths / @SchoolScanner

What is your role?

This September I moved to Alcester Academy as Associate Subject Leader with my partner in crime (Seager), having started my teaching career at Trinity High School (Most Improved School Jan 2013) in Redditch 5 years ago eventually becoming 2ic and Whole School One-to-One Coordinator.

How would you describe your teaching style?

One word: Evolving.

Until September I would have said that my teaching style was “risky”; I would always try new ideas out and take the less safe route if given a choice. Don’t get me wrong this doesn’t mean every lesson but I tried to mix it up a little. In terms of a “safe” lesson as I have become more comfortable in my classroom I am happier to teach without loads of worksheets or resources and can focus on what I want them to learn and be able to apply that lesson.  I make no apologies for my style of teaching: sometimes it’s very didactic, sometimes interactive and there are times when it is very “student led”. The one thing I have a fundamental belief about is that that without a “body of knowledge” i.e. teaching them “stuff” students cannot and will never be able to apply the softer skills that a few years ago was bandied around as the aim of education.

With a move to a new school, my teaching for the last 8 weeks has become very formulaic. I have blogged about why this is the case. I just believe that my students need to know that every lesson I will be handing them out a “do now” sheet and whilst I hand out the books and do the register they get on with it. “We” are establishing “our” routines and as a result behaviour is better. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE HOW TOUGH MOVING JOBS IS!!

I know that given time my teaching will get back to where it was in terms of me being much more relaxed and prepared to try new ideas. Right now the pressure (I love pressure!) is on to get results with year 11 and they are rising to the challenge like I’ve not seen before and lower down the school I can already see that there is massive scope for these students and me to have an amazing relationship.

What made you become involved in Maths education?

I have been asked about this by several people, including the Guardian and the National College for Teaching and Learning and my reply has always that I wanted to “make a difference”.

My plan at 21 was to leave Warwick University, return back to Wales and do my PGCE in Design & Technology (we called it woodwork and metalwork in my day!). However, about 6 weeks before the end of my course I met my new boss at my part time job in a pub in Leamington Spa. The rest, they say is history … 5 weeks later I’d organised to rent a flat in town, he moved in and 6 months later we were married … 21 years later we are still together!

All my plans went out of the window as we went into business together. I spent 7 glorious years running a town centre pub … it was brilliant until I lost my mam in a hit-and-run. This was the “trigger” that made me consider whether she ran a corner shop, working 12 hour days to put me through university for me to be a glorified bar-maid (ok so I was more than that and doing very well out of it) and so off I went to find a “corporate” job. I spent the next decade or so working up the ladder from a regional role, to a national role and then having some responsibilities for overseas.

The change into teaching was another “trigger”: one of my team was involved in a fatal car crash, and having to deal with losing Tim made me re-evaluate my priorities and who I was as a person. It basically made me question everything.  In terms of the practicalities of making the decision it happened after a weekend with some friends and their kids. At about 4am we were having a heart-to-heart about “life, the universe … and everything” (You know those conversations!) and I was told that I should consider teaching (these friends never knew my childhood ambition was to be a teacher!) and every single objection I could find was counter-argued by them. Everything just fell into place.

That’s not to say it was an easy decision to make or that the whole process was painless. It has however been the best decision I have ever made (apart from saying “yes” to my husband!) in my life.

Beyond your main role, what other projects/work are you involved in?

JustMaths has taken over our lives – there are 3 of us involved: Seager (my HOD), Fize (who does the ICT) and little ‘ol me. It came about as a result of a corridor conversation and yet here we are, about to celebrate our second birthday in November. I genuinely can’t remember what I did with my time before JustMaths.

I blog on our site and I am constantly humbled and amazed at the feedback – when myself and Seager made the decision to move to a new school together I vowed that I would be talking about the highs and lows and even if only one person takes comfort in knowing that they aren’t the only ones feeling the same, then I feel I have done what I set out to do.

I also do a bit of co-presenting with Seager doing Maths workshops (he gets to do more of it though!) for various organisations and we have built up great working relationships with one of the exam boards (not that I’m on bad terms with the others by the way ☺ – I’ve done some freelance stuff for one of them!) and as a result, in the new year we will be delivering some “Getting Ready To Teach” type CPD events.

There are also some other exciting things that I’m finalising details for … as they say: Watch this space!

What do you enjoy about your career?

Being brutally honest I enjoy being in front of students more than the “managing” element of my day-job. The rapport is amazing. Knowing the impact on the lives of these young people I can have is the most rewarding thing you can imagine from a career. I feel it is both and honour and a privilege to be allowed to make that difference to so many students.

What do you think are the main challenges that maths teachers face?

Oh! Where do I start? In terms of the biggest challenge some would say recruitment and I agree to some extent, but before that we need to consider RETENTION. There is no point recruiting unless we can retain teachers in the profession.

The constant changes in policy from Whitehall mean that education is in a constant state of flux and given the fact that education is high on the political agenda it means that in a democracy this is inevitable. What we cannot allow to continue is for the voice of the foot soldiers (us! The teachers!) to be ignored. We are always looking for those in power to validate their position or knowledge of education by proving they have “been there, seen in and done it” (many of them haven’t by the way!) and breathe a sigh when someone with the right credentials comes along, but so often these members of the teaching elite that have credibility move out of teaching and then unfortunately become separated from what it happening at the coal-face and become “yes” men/women.

Additionally we have new GCSEs, which I’m taking in my stride and am quite excited about. Our challenge in secondary schools lies with the new programmes of study lower down the age groups which haven’t been taught the new KS2 and KS3 topics but are assumed as prior knowledge at KS3 and KS4 respectively … unless we are very skilled and are aware of these there is a danger of a “lost generation” who will have massive gaps.

Interesting and very exciting times are ahead.

What advice do you have for people just starting out in Maths education, or who would like to become involved?

If you are considering teaching and haven’t yet made the jump: Think carefully, but once you have made the leap of faith you need to give it everything. Most importantly, make sure that you have a supportive family or group of friends (my husband was amazing!).  Do your research, get into a local school because education is constantly changing and your recollection of it as a student will be a very different view as a teacher.

If you are already on the journey make sure that you take the time to enjoy it. Sometimes it is hard to step outside of the chaos but you need to stop, breathe and look around.

What tools/resources do you use to help you in your work?

My natural state is one of disorganisation and I used to have to work really hard at keeping myself organised. I love lists but as a consequence I used to end up with bits of paper everywhere and very early on in my corporate career I learned to carry a book and wrote every conversation, phone call, to-do note and meeting note into it. Since technology has moved on I now use my ipad and wouldn’t be without Idoceo (an electronic version of a teachers planner, but better!) which I use to organise my life.

 What is the best advice you’ve been given?

When it comes to general advice my mam used to say “worry is like a rocking horse … it goes up and down but gets you nowhere”. Easier said than done in reality, but what it does for me is make me take action and do “stuff” that means I am working towards a solution for whatever it is that is worrying me.

In terms of my teaching the best advice was to “wait for silence and then wait some more” … Getting quiet is tough with some groups and it is easy to start talking as soon as you’ve got it, but I found that when I did this some groups felt that it was OK to revert to them talking. What worked for me is to “wait some more” as it asserts your authority as the teacher and provides a definitive break between them talking and me talking.

Behind the Mathematician: Martin Noon

Behind the Mathematician is a series designed to see what the best maths teachers do, why they do it, how they got there, and hopefully along the way help inspire the rest of us to move to the next level.

The next post in our series is all about Martin Noon, aka @letsgetmathing and the creator of Let’s Get Mathing, a new website focused on GCSE and A-Level revision. It’s still in it’s early stages, but it is a site that’s going to be very valuable for students and teachers alike. Let’s find out more about Martin:

What is your name/alias?

Martin Noon formerly @dognoon but now @letsgetmathing

What is your role?

I am currently a Deputy Head of Faculty at a school in Essex. I’ve been there since 2004 having moved from my first school in East London,that I was at for 3 years, for the promotion. I started out as KS3 co-ordinator and had that role for many years. I started by introducing a new scheme of work for years 7-9 then went on to developing a 2 year KS3 scheme when our school decided to enter y8 pupils for the year 9 SATs. Well, we had one year of both year 9 and year 8 sitting the SATs all at once (540 pupils) and then the government scrapped it! A few years later when our other DHOF left to move area, my boss and I agreed that KS4 should be my next challenge. We were using the modular spec at that time and had a scheme of work in place but as luck would have it – the government scrapped the modular exams! Hello scheme of work number 3! It was then I realised that I actually liked coming up with new schemes of work. It’s really important to get it right. You can’t just take something that’s from another school and expect it to work at your school. Every school is a different size with a different intake and you need to develop something that will work for your pupils.

Well, that scheme of work lasted a few years and I am now working on our new 5 year SoW, trying to embed mastery, preparing for assessment without levels and continually trying to find ways to boost our A*-C. Continue reading

Behind the Mathematician: Ed Southall

Behind the Mathematician is a series designed to see what the best maths teachers do, why they do it, how they got there, and hopefully along the way help inspire the rest of us to move to the next level.

The third in this series is brought to you by Ed Southall, aka @edsouthall and the brains behind Solve My Maths, a sublime set of mathematics problems, teaching ideas and general thoughts and pointers on all things mathematical. So let’s find out more about Ed…

What is your name/alias?

Ed Southall

What is your role?

Maths teacher trainer / maths teacher

How would you describe your teaching style?

A bit of everything. I include a lot of creative opportunities for students, and investigations (although I don’t put investigations on a pedestal by any means), but there’s a whole bunch of embedding too. Continue reading

Behind the Mathematician: Jo Morgan

Behind the Mathematician is a series designed to see what the best maths teachers do, why they do it, how they got there, and hopefully along the way help inspire the rest of us to move to the next level.

The second in this series is all about Jo Morgan, aka the creator and curator of the Resourceaholic website, an absolute gold mine for those of us hungry to find the best resources to support our teaching.

So, let’s find out more about the person behind this essential tool in a great deal of maths teacher’s lives!

What is your name/alias?
Jo Morgan, @mathsjem, resourceaholic.

What is your role?
I’m currently a maths teacher at a girls’ grammar school in South London.

How would you describe your teaching style?
I sit more in the ‘imparting knowledge’ camp than the ‘student inquiry’ camp. That doesn’t mean I’m resistant to new teaching ideas and technologies – quite the opposite. Continue reading

Behind The Mathematician: An Introduction

Being in the company of wonderful Maths teachers on Saturday made me feel slightly inadequate in some respects. I am very much a cheerleader rather than a creator of great Maths teaching practice. So I’ve spent the last 24 hours thinking – what could I actually do? Well rather than arbitrarily try to start making things, I thought I’d make the most of what I do best – promoting good ideas and spreading the word.

Inspired (Copied? Of course not!) by Lifehacker’s How I Work series (which is a worthwhile read in its own right) I’ve decided to launch a ‘Behind The Mathematician’ series, a chance to discover more about the people who are at the forefront of great maths teaching, find out what inspired them and hopefully learn from their careers in order to inspire all of us in the profession to achieve great (or should that be greater) things ourselves.

If you would like to be profiled in this series, then contact me via twitter @workedgechaos or e-mail me, workedgechaos@gmail.com

So, I’ll get things rolling:

Continue reading