Maths, finance and a simple daily mindset - The biggest takeaways from Bob Seagull’s training session

Yun LiuBobby Seagull’s journey took him from Lehman brothers to becoming a chartered accountant at PwC, during which he took time mentoring sixth-form students. He enjoyed the teaching aspect so much that he undertook PGCE training in Cambridge and is part-time doctorate at Cambridge looking at maths anxiety. 

I was really excited to attend Bobby’s training session, Financial Maths: How to Make the Finance of Maths Come to Life for Students; I am also a career changer from finance to teaching maths, so I really relate to his story. His interesting experience from the City, and his transfer of that to teaching has definitely had an impact all over the whole country through the programmes he is running. The focus of his teaching that appeals to me most is the emphasis on maths serving the purpose of solving problems in the real world. I love using this approach in my teaching.

His humorous story about his mum’s discount on a Sports Direct bag, raised his awareness that national numeracy levels needed to be improved particularly in the context of personal finances. This can be addressed through daily lessons in maths. In fact, it is indeed our responsibility as a maths teacher to equip the students with maths skills for the financial world. Another important skill is data analysis. For example, in a typical data collection lesson, he asks his class to note all the heights of the students to work out the average.

He emphasized that real mathematicians should be able to decide, rather than purely relying on calculators on the basis that there is always a risk of error when a calculator processes large quantity of data. 

The session incorporated some great resources we can use directly in our classroom teaching. For example, the graph story about historical financial crises illustrated in the simplest way how important data analysis is. I loved the “tulip” illustration the most – which I guess could even be a favourite of historians who hate maths!

When it comes to parents’ involvement and their approach to maths learning, there are plenty of maths examples parents can be involved with at home (mortgage, daily essentials, fixing the car etc). I often find this is particularly helpful with “shy” students.  They tend to talk more through exploring maths in real world contexts with the support from their family too.

I believe strongly that it is the teacher’s responsibility to utilise their professional capital to help students to reach their full potential in the real world.

By Yun Liu