Why Maths teachers need to know about Maths careers
You have signed up to be a Maths teacher, not a careers advisor, so why do you need to know anything about Maths careers? Here are four good reasons why it can help you in the classroom:
1. It will motivate you
You already know that understanding Maths is good for career progression. When you start to understand just how important it is, it will help motivate you even more as a teacher. Maths achievement is one of the strongest indicators of future earnings – for instance studying A-Level Maths leads to an average 11% earnings premium by age 34, compared to someone who hasn’t studied A-Level Maths.
According to a recent study 35% of all jobs are at high risk of computerisation over the next 20 years, with many of the remaining jobs requiring mathematical skills. You aren’t just teaching your students about quadratic equations – you are massively improving their future life choices. Understanding just how much of a difference you are making can give you job satisfaction even on a wet and windy November morning.
2. It will help you tackle those difficult ‘What’s the Point?’ questions
‘What’s the point of learning about algebra?’ You will probably be faced with this type of question thousands of times in your career. If you feel knowledgeable about where Maths is used in the world then you are going to feel much more confident in the classroom. Did you know that the founders of Google both had Maths backgrounds? Knowing facts like this are going to help you bring your subject alive.
There is a great set of ‘What’s the Point’ resources available on Mathscareers.org.uk, with each poster giving details about where a particular topic is used in the real world. If you have a colour printer you could print them off for your classroom. For example, your pupils will be amazed to find out that quadratic equations can be used to plot the trajectory of a bullet when analysing a crime scene.
3. You need to be a careers advisor, not just a teacher
Many careers advisors won’t have specialist knowledge relating to Maths focused careers. This means that classroom teachers have an important role to play in guiding their students. You might find yourself motivating an A-Level student who wants to choose a Maths degree, but can’t think of any jobs that it might lead to.
On the other hand you might be faced at parents evening with questions about which A-Levels their child should study in order to prepare for university. You might want to read this article Which Degree Courses need A-Level Mathematics? Some people may be surprised at how useful Maths A-Level is for degree subjects such as Biology and Chemistry. Others won’t even realise that Maths A-Level is essential for most Engineering and Physics courses.
Throughout your career, you will be called upon to give guidance, so it is best to be prepared in advance.
4. Careers can bring your teaching alive
Once you are knowledgeable about where Maths is used in the world, you can start to bring this into your daily teaching. It could be something as simple as telling your pupils how prime numbers are used to encrypt WhatsApp, or an engaging classroom display showcasing Maths careers. On the other hand you could dream big and run something as large as a full scale Maths week with invited speakers from industry. (One good way of finding speakers from industry is to contact the STEM Ambassadors Scheme.) Pupils love to see how their work is relevant to real life - it can radically change how they see their subject and how they learn.
How can I improve my knowledge of Maths Careers?
There are many things which you can do in order to improve your knowledge.
Here are five quick ideas:
1. Regularly visit www.Mathscareers.org.uk – the UK’s number 1 Maths careers website.
2. Keep up your subscription to a professional body such as the IMA – you will be kept up to date with the latest developments.
3. Keep your eye on the news – there are regular stories about Maths in the news, some of which you can share with your pupils. (Take a look at this recent news article on how much people earn after studying different degrees – Maths scores very highly.)
4. Keep up with your old university friends – it is great to see how their careers progress once they have graduated, and they will give you ideas about what Maths graduates can do.
5. Be prepared to go away and do some research. If a pupil asks you a question which you can’t answer then make sure you dig deeper.