When studying for my A levels, especially in mathematics, lessons usually followed a set routine. New information and examples were written up on the board to be copied down, then using the methods presented at the beginning of the lesson, the class set about attempting to solve a series of similar problems from the textbook. Often, this monotonous way of learning meant I struggled to engage within the content of the lessons.
As a PGCE student, I received my first experience of teaching A level. After observing Year 12 mechanics lessons for a few weeks, I tried my hand at marrying the ‘suvat’ equations to distance-time graphs within those classes, and had limited success. As a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) a few months later, I was teaching a Year 13 A level statistics class. I have fond memories of those first classes. As a new teacher, I enjoyed the different challenges they posed and seeing the response of my students.
At the end of the year I judged the experience as a success. I had developed great relationships with my students who appeared to take the exam season in their stride, having worked through all the chapters and exercises in the textbook, and I had guided the class through an impressive amount of past paper questions.
However, I had developed a teaching style that was similar to the one I had received as a student, rather than developing a range of engaging, active learning strategies. Mathematics A level lessons have the difficulty of being mixed ability compared with key stages 3 and 4. I felt my teaching style didn’t meet this challenge.
Throughout my teaching career, I am constantly on the lookout for ideas and strategies that would help improve my teaching and engage my students. The best way I found to improve my teaching as an inexperienced teacher, was to discover and trial a range of skills and techniques to aid teaching A level mathematics.
The National STEM Learning Centre is offering a ‘New to teaching A level mathematics summer school’ that has been specifically developed to aid teachers who are moving into the realms of teaching A level mathematics or are recently qualified and starting their A level teaching journey.
Need a better idea of the activity? The video below gives you all the information you need to know.