The Maths Scholars Assessment Centre Success Tips

Maybe you wouldn’t expect to think about conversation skills before you arrive at a Maths Scholars Assessment Centre. However, if you fail to do this it’s likely you’ll fail to shine.

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.

biggest headache

Why is this? Often students fail to actually understand the questions that are asked because they have been taught the mechanics of maths but not its applications. If the focus is on mechanics 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 that 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.

Maths teachers must communicate effectively

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 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

When it comes to the presentation you will have prepared. Once you’ve clarified that it’s best to give an outline but concentrate on an activity that will really help learners to understand what’s going on and interact. We want to know how you problem solve and inspire. After all, lessons have to be an interaction between teachers and students. In this case to teacher educators have to come at it from the learners perspective.

So we are looking for you to have an outline of what a lesson would contain, flow through the lesson, specify one or two ideas of how you will make it relevant and interactive and thought provoking at whatever level of class. However, we usually want you to prepare a lesson aimed at the start of A level maths. We don’t want you to talk about the basics we want you to research and bring something to the party. Don’t talk at us; talk with us. Be prepared to ask questions that might analyse students’ learning and tease out misunderstandings.

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

The interview

There is one interviewee and two interviewers during this interview.

Personally, my background is a practicing teacher and teacher educator rather than being involved in the university side of thing. I deal with candidates as people and I want to see them shine.

We tend to see 8 candidates in the morning and 8 in afternoon. Be prepared to do any of the activities in any order. So please don’t say that you didn’t expect that. Be prepared to do any of the activities at any time.

One of my observations is that I sometimes remember candidates for the wrong reasons and people should try to avoid that!

One of the biggest hurdles is if your English isn’t good enough for the rigours of the British school system. Spoken English and understanding of other people’s responses to them is vital, obviously. If you don’t getting the nuances of a discussion you really won’t manage in the classroom. Everyone have to understand their English must be good…not just spoken or written.

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