What Makes an Effective Maths Teacher?

By Laura Burton 

An IQ of more than 1000? Being able to multiply 5 digit numbers in your head in less than 0.6 seconds? You may think that these are the skills of a “good” maths teacher. However, being an effective teacher, in any subject, requires a lot more than vast subject knowledge. 

Laura BurtonA teacher needs to have excellent subject knowledge – that is a given. How are you supposed to teach a topic if you don’t understand it yourself? But knowing the topic is not necessarily enough. A teacher must have a deep understanding of their subject but also possess the ability to break that knowledge down to make it accessible to pupils of all abilities. Developing this skill is a key foundation to teaching and it comes about by being in a classroom, talking to pupils, and being creative with the way in which you explain concepts. 

Looking back at my own time as a pupil, the best teachers were always the ones who were willing to have some fun! We all know that maths is the most exciting subject but unfortunately a lot of pupils disagree. Getting pupils engaged in the lesson, having fun with mathematics and being creative is the best way to get them to learn! Students will always remember the lesson that was entertaining and a bit lively but ask them about the lesson where they copied up questions from the board and they will look at you with blank stares.  

Being able to connect with your pupils and seeing your lesson the way that they do is key to effective teaching. Therefore, having empathy with your pupils is critical in order to provide the best teaching to every pupil in your classroom. A teacher needs to put themselves in their students’ shoes and realise where they may be going wrong. 

Sadly, not all teaching is fun and games. You will come across difficult pupils; pupils who don’t want to work; pupils who answer back or are just very chatty! In those cases a teacher needs to be firm but fair. Make sure pupils know the rules and what will happen if they break those rules. Applying these rules across all classes and pupils will ensure that learning is always the priority. Children like order (no matter how much they complain about how “stupid” the rules are!) and in my personal experience they only start to complain when teachers are not being fair to all in their praise and sanctions.  

In essence, being an effective teacher is not just about “teaching”. There are so many aspects of learning and behaviour that a teacher needs to consider before they even step foot in a classroom!