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How to succeed as a non-specialist teacher of mathematics

Published: Jan 10, 2017 2 min read

Stephen Lyon

Mathematics Lead

National STEM Learning Centre

It may seem a little strange to some people, but as a head of a large mathematics department, I actually looked forward to that time of the year when the timetable had to be constructed.

It was like a giant Sudoku puzzle that would takes days, even weeks, to solve. It was a long, tricky process, but I loved it when eventually it all pulled together!

Often, we did not have enough mathematics specialists to teach all of the required lessons. Even with the Deputy Head, the Assistant Head and a Head of Year as mathematics specialists, each year we still needed another teacher- be it from PE, Geography or IT- to take at least one class.

Today, the shortage of specialist mathematics teachers for some schools can be severe. Across the country there are many non-specialist mathematics teachers, not just teaching the odd lesson of mathematics each week, but have a timetable consisting mainly of, or entirely of, mathematics.

Supporting a teacher with a hand full of mathematics lessons can be a challenge in itself. Supporting a teacher who has to teach a range of different ages and abilities is an altogether different proposition.

Fortunately, there are a variety of ways non-specialist mathematics teachers can get support. Once, I took an Open University Module to support a PE colleague who was retraining to teach mathematics. In addition to a host of on-line offerings the Teacher subject specialism training (TSST) programme, can also help.

At the National STEM Learning Centre we too recognise the need to support mathematics teachers whose specialism is not mathematics.

In our ENTHUSE-supported residential CPD ‘Building confidence as a non-specialist mathematics teacher’ we will look at what makes good mathematics teaching, the theory behind how to teach the basics such as fractions, algebra and sequences as well as how manipulatives can be used in lessons and where to find and simple ways to adapt great resources.