Good Maths Teachers…

equationYou will see from my post on Dec 1st I asked someone else for his thoughts on Mathematics education – Simon Singh, whose book ‘The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets’ was published in paperback recently answered some questions I put to him.

I thought I’d also ask Year 9 about good Maths teachers…

I asked my wonderful Year 9 class about their ideal Maths teacher – this was not about personal comments about any individual teacher – but the qualities of their ideal Maths teacher. Their comments are in blue:

A Maths teacher should be optimistic, enthusiastic (but not overboard), have a good knowledge of the subject and be helpful, engaging, practical and organised.

So many of their comments seemed to me to fit with the key components of this extremely worthwhile read: What makes great teaching? Review of the underpinning research.
Robert Coe, Cesare Aloisi, Steve Higgins and Lee Elliot Major
October 2014

The report lists six common components suggested by research that teachers should consider when assessing teaching quality. The authors state that “This should be seen as offering a ‘starter kit’ for thinking about effective pedagogy. Good quality teaching will likely involve a combination of these attributes manifested at different times; the very best teachers are those that demonstrate all of these features.”

I thought I would list the students comments’ under what I feel are the most appropriate components from the review. Their comments I felt fell into the first four components.

  1. (Pedagogical) content knowledge (Strong evidence of impact on student outcomes)

“The most effective teachers have deep knowledge of the subjects they teach, and when teachers’ knowledge falls below a certain level it is a significant impediment to students’ learning. As well as a strong understanding of the material being taught, teachers must also understand the ways students think about the content, be able to evaluate the thinking behind students’ own methods, and identify students’ common misconceptions.”

Good at explanations and lecturing.
Someone who can explain in different ways.
Someone who won’t just tell you how to do something, but will explain how and why it works.
Helpful Maths websites for students.
Lets us be independent.
Provokes your mind to think beyond the syllabus.

  1. Quality of instruction (Strong evidence of impact on student outcomes)

“Includes elements such as effective questioning and use of assessment by teachers. Specific practices, like reviewing previous learning, providing model responses for students, giving adequate time for practice to embed skills securely 3 and progressively introducing new learning (scaffolding) are also elements of high quality instruction.”

Hard working.
A teacher who provides the student with the opportunity to see what they need to revise. Regular tests and quizzes do this.
Puts a lot of time into lesson planning.
Doesn’t mind repeating things.
Speaks at a suitable pace.
Gives us notes which are helpful like worked examples.
Make sure we can write good notes.
Go through examples together.
The right amount of homework.
Someone who is willing to answer any question.
Pushes you to work on harder questions to extend your abilities.
Helpful individually AND generally.
Does practical work.
Gives detailed and constructive feedback.
Someone willing to help outside class

  1. Classroom climate (Moderate evidence of impact on student outcomes)

“Covers quality of interactions between teachers and students, and teacher expectations: the need to create a classroom that is constantly demanding more, but still recognising students’ self-worth. It also involves attributing student success to effort rather than ability and valuing resilience to failure (grit).”

Should be passionate and enthusiastic.

Firm but kind.
Someone you can feel comfortable with.
Recognises achievements.
Genuinely caring about the students.
Someone who knows who you are.
Someone who you know won’t judge you. 
Expect the best out of your students, but don’t be angry if they don’t always achieve it.
Check with students individually if they are stuck.
They should be able to cater to all abilities.
Lets you talk about the work in class.
Praises students.

  1. Classroom management (Moderate evidence of impact on student outcomes)

“A teacher’s abilities to make efficient use of lesson time, to coordinate classroom resources and space, and to manage students’ behaviour with clear rules that are consistently enforced, are all relevant to maximising the learning that can take place. These environmental factors are necessary for good learning rather than its direct components.”

Someone who can still keep control in the classroom.
Is organised and creative.
Use different media, it’s really important – the ordinary board, the whiteboard, worksheets, jigsaws, cut and stick (matching up exercises), drawing, walk around the classroom problems (treasure hunts), computers.

A few more comments to finish…

Have readable handwriting.
Someone who knows how to use the Smart board.

Here’s a comment to make you smile!
Maths teachers are different from other teachers, because Maths can be very different to other subjects. 

…and an appropriate final comment:

What makes a good Maths teacher is someone who is passionate about Maths and explains everything REALLY well. I think being passionate is really important as we students can tell if a teacher is enjoying a subject and sometimes the explanations of topics are better when a teacher loves a subject.

I think it is also important that the teacher can challenge the most able students whilst making sure that the least able are keeping up.

Thank you so much to my amazing Year 9 students!

See also ‘More on good teachers’ where Year 7 (UK age 11-12) have plenty to say!

6 comments on “Good Maths Teachers…

  1. What a really great post! You must have a solid rapport with your students for them to be so candid with their comments. Certain phrases stand out to me because they are so often not said, such as “have readable handwriting.” How many times has my child struggled to read the comments of one particular teacher…in this case one is left feeling that the teacher doesn’t care if you get the message or not. “Someone who knows who you are ” and ” someone who won’t judge you” seem to be powerful tools that work together and are often forgotten. I think that I am going to have to print up this post and keep it nearby. Thank you, to you and your Year 9 students.

    • Thank you Paula. I was so impressed at their very insightful comments. Much food for thought I think. Interesting too that their comments match the research about what’s important.

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