What makes an effective maths teacher?


Being effective is about making choices, hopefully more right ones than wrong ones that influence outcomes to the benefit of everyone, pupils, yourself, department and school. Choices about what to work on and when, prioritising and achieving resolution for a continuous flow of problems (the nice problems that relate to learning outcomes for all children but also the more arduous ones related to behaviour and paperwork).

Being effective is truly understanding the individual mathematicians you are working with, developing specific learning triggers that work for each one. Continuously building a toolset to be deployed with planning or opportunistically.You may need to be quite mercenary in interpreting the actions and approaches of others to enhance your own capabilities as a facilitator of learning, simply to speed up the process to be more effective in gaining the best outcome of results for the learners you support.

Using time effective resources is also key. I have been partially successful in my resources to date. Lesson starters have been the biggest key so far, having a starter that settles the class and engages individuals sets the scene for the lesson, after that you are looking to maintain that engagement, continuing to vary the flow of resource and activity. My better lessons have been ones with good settlers.

Finding the right balance is an impossible task but you neverendingly strive for it, responding to sways of imbalance and adjusting to counteract and re-seek balance. Every element of teaching appears to function within a yin and yang basis, for example offering comfort and risk within a lesson. Promoting a culture in the class that trying is more important than getting things right gives an environment that is risky for the learners, getting things wrong generally equates to failure but getting things ‘wrong’ promotes learning, establishing reasons for ‘invalid’ methods directing towards more ‘correct’ solutions. I have felt greater improvements in individual’s engagement to learn is from becoming less worried about getting something wrong and simply trying.

This is a difficult balancing act, in seeking an inattentive pupil to focus has led me to suggest that as he didn’t know the answer (to a very simple question) was a failing, I need to be sure to highlight that the failing is the lack of focus and not being able to come up with the right answer. You as a teacher may get thing wrong but are trying, exactly the same as what you may be looking for from your pupils!

By Mat Timpson