I’ll always remember my Year 8 maths lessons. We investigated, we discussed, and we explored. Our teacher modelled ‘an appreciation of the beauty and power of mathematics’ and developed our ‘sense of enjoyment and curiosity about the subject’.
Recommendation 5 of ‘Improving Mathematics in Key Stages 2 and 3’ guidance report discusses the importance of adults modelling strategies and behaviours that encourage pupils to develop their independence and motivation towards learning maths.
So, how do we support the next generation of teachers to be role models who instil this mathematical motivation, enjoyment, and confidence?
For the primary PGCE programme at University of Newcastle, maths subject knowledge and pedagogy is taught through key themes; the first of these is ‘Attitudes, beliefs and values.’ This begins with students reflecting autobiographically to introduce the key idea that ‘Teachers are key role models, who can influence the attitudes, values and behaviours of their pupils’ (DfE, 2019).
With a mission centred on social justice, student teachers discuss equity, ‘narrowing the attainment gap’ and ‘mastery for all’ through the subject-specific lens of primary maths. These discussions facilitate students’ thinking about their own core values as teachers of maths, and their vision for their mathematical learners.
In partnership with Great North Maths Hub, Newcastle University student teachers take part in an ‘Intensive Training and Practice’ (ITaP) experience focusing on ‘mastery for all’. The partnership allows student teachers to learn from expert school-based colleagues who are mastery specialists, and provides opportunity for observing specialist teachers, collaborative planning, and supported reflection. As mentors, the mastery specialists model mathematical motivation and independence, for the benefit of pupils and student teachers.
As we move into the new semester, one PGCE student commented ‘I have found a love and passion for maths that I didn’t know existed’. So, I have asked the student teachers for their top tips to being a mathematical role model.
- ‘Show that maths is useful and for everyone.’
- ‘Share maths experiences openly and replicate the positives.’
- ‘Create an environment where it is okay to have a go and make mistakes, so pupils gain confidence.’
- ‘Develop subject knowledge as this also develops confidence.’
- ‘Lessons should be filled with rich and deep maths talk.’
- ‘Hold onto the values you want the children to have as effective learners.’
It is important to think about how this mathematical learning journey will continue for the many student teachers across the country. It is also important for school leaders to think about ways of continuing to support Early Career teachers in understanding how they can affect and improve the motivation and mathematical independence of their pupils.