Maths Education and Communication.
by Lois Dark.
I owe Professor Alice Rogers and Mrs Jane Bennett-Rees a debt of gratitude for giving me the opportunity to take part in the Maths Education and Communication module, as it has been the most inspiring and valuable experience I’ve had the pleasure of embarking on during my university career.
Unsure of how students would respond to me; unsure of how to plan a lesson; unsure of whether or not I had what it took to stand up in front of a classroom full of people and talk coherently about topics I haven’t thought about in almost six years, I was wracked with nerves on my first day. There was no need; I settled in in no time, surrounded by welcoming staff and students buzzing with energy.
I worked with classes of different ages and different abilities, each offering a new challenge, all of which required patience and enthusiasm. The lower tier year 7s needed help with basic addition and multiplication; the top tier year 9s needed to be pushed to question how and why they were doing something to ensure a deep understanding of the content, whilst the middle set year 11s simply craved a confidence boost in the run up towards their last chance at achieving the all important C grade GCSE.
One particularly difficult student taught me the importance of encouragement to motivate. After five minutes of her insisting that she didn’t want to do the work, couldn’t do the work and wouldn’t do the work, countered with five minutes of my grin-ridden persistence, eventually we got to work on the first of many revision transformation problems. With a few prompts and reassurances, the student completed the first question, rotating a triangle on a set of axes. After a few probing questions about equivalent angles and methods of checking our work, I gave the student praise, putting emphasis on how able she was. From that moment until the end of the lesson, she powered on through the rest of the work set without even a grimace.
The importance of the relationships between teachers and students has stood out to me during my time in the school, particularly as it’s something I hadn’t ever really sat down and thought about before now. Students were happier to ask for my help and listen to what I had to say after having seen me in their lesson for a few weeks. And when it came to trying to motivate maths-apathetic students, it was significantly easier once I knew their name; had learned what they found frustrating about maths lessons and understood the relationship between the student and the teacher – all of which came with time.
The key skill that I’ve acquired on this placement has to be how to effectively plan and prepare for a lesson.For example, investigative lessons that are divided into small segments are generally well received and keep pupils engaged. I also discovered how not to plan a lesson: plan the work for the students to complete after a discussion about the topic in hand and forget to plan what the discussion will be about and what needs to come from it, or planning a starter that lasts 50 minutes for an hour-long lesson.
In September this year, I have been lucky enough to be given a place on the Secondary Maths PGCE programme at KCL and my placement has made me even more eager to begin. I’m taking away many new skills, and have a newfound confidence in front of an audience and a taste for how rewarding the job will be.