The Maths Scholars Assessment Centre Success Tips

Why is there such a focus on conversation from Maths Scholars?

We believe very strongly in Scholars having the language of Maths. We are all about improving the quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics and this is why.

Quite often a teacher’s biggest headache is that students can ‘do the maths’ but cannot perform well in exams.

Why is this? Often students fail to actually understand the questions that are asked because they have been taught the techniques of maths but not conceptual understanding or the application in unfamiliar problems. If the focus is on techniques then it’s likely the problem solving skills will fail to materialize. Therefore the language of maths underpins so much of what goes on in the contemporary maths classroom.

Maths teachers must communicate effectively

If we expect the above from students, it means teachers need the ability to communicate at every level. They need to be agile and creative in discovering what students don’t understand and how they can design different ways to progress the learning. 

Teacher educators have to come at the subject from the learners’ perspective. Teachers need the groundwork on which to build so they can interact to get a feel and link learning to older learning and also make connections with new material. After all that’s how we learn.

At the assessment centre we are in receipt of some of the best maths people in the country. They have brilliant qualifications but we have noticed that often candidates don’t really talk to each other. Therefore we have some good advice for the group discussion part of the day.

Tips for the Maths Scholars’ group discussion assessment.

The Group Discussion

When students are sent all their materials for the assessment centre they will receive the topic for this assessed group discussion.

We note that some have looked at the topic for the discussion and carried out some research. But the thing that really lets some people down is the fact they haven’t really thought about their own view about what they’ve read. That means they are not really ready to join in the discussion. So tip 1 is to do some research and think: ‘where do I stand on this? What are my observations and reactions and how do I respond to what others might be saying?’

You can also base your ideas on what you have seen in schools so far. It’s fair to say that most have done observation in schools. So ask yourself where do you see things/ ideas fitting into a school context. Don’t just dive in but actually add to and develop the conversations taking place.

This can seem difficult for some because unless someone is confident it can feel daunting to get involved. But this is not an insignificant assessment because teachers need to be involved, to listen and comment, engage and discuss. It is a life/work skill.

It is beginning be integral to the wholesale change in the way maths is taught in schools all the way through from primary to A level. In fact the whole curriculum has been changing. As it now incorporates more problem solving and thinking skills those who had not seen the necessity to change dramatically…now have had to overhaul their approach. Teachers have to lead the way and encourage mathematical application. Questions such as:

    Why do you say that?
    Why do you believe that?
    Where and what’s the evidence?

Basically teaching to the test has been replaced.

If you don’t naturally have an outgoing character it’s not something some find easy or comes naturally. However, we need to know potential scholars have the capacity. Otherwise how are they going to interact with youngsters and promote deep learning?

Come prepared to have a relaxed conversation about the topic you’ve been asked to discuss; it’s quite simple really.

The Presentation

For the presentation you will have done some research, thought about your own beliefs and prepared a set of notes to hand in on the day (and emailed these beforehand!).

We are looking for you to show that you have thought about the question, about what the roles in a school might involve and what they might mean to you.  You should also be able to talk about an activity or idea, or bring something with you to show how it could work in a classroom. Remember, you only have a short time so you will need to be sharp and to the point.

Don’t talk at us, talk with us, engage us, and be ready to answer questions about your presentation from the audience (the assessor and other applicants.  Don’t over-prepare, but be informed able to present your own views.

You don’t need to be over prepared but be able to give a point of view.

The interview

There is one interviewee and two interviewers during this interview.

You will be interviewed by two interviewers via a conference call facilities. This can include video conferencing, so if you have not had an interview this way, you can find lots of advice on the internet. You will be sent the interview questions in advance so think about each question – what are the interviewers looking for in a Scholar?  What are you offering, and how can you communicate this effectively in the time?  Bring notes if you wish to, and refer to them during the interview if you need to.

It’s a good idea to practice the interview before so that you know you are not trying to say too much, or not sticking to the point.  If you haven’t had many interviews, ask a friend to check that you are communicating well and answering the set questions, and ask them to give you feedback on your body language.

The three assessment activities can be in any order, so do not assume that the interview will be last, come prepared for all three. Good candidates have prepared thoroughly, are prepared to communicate and listen and demonstrate a love for teaching as well as mathematics.

So to summarise the assessment day involves:

    A short presentation
    A group discussion
    An interview

Prepare carefully for each section and you are likely to do very well.

- Anne Fieldhouse