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The story behind great maths teachers on World Maths Day

This World Maths Day (March 7), a teaching school hub in Leicestershire is urging people with a passion for maths to consider training as a teacher in the subject. 

Leicestershire and Rutland Teaching School Hub (LRTSH) is recruiting to train maths teachers from September this year. The country currently has a shortage of maths teachers with only 90 per cent of the Government’s maths teacher target being met for 2022/23. 

Maths teacher Stuart Myles, who trains the next generation of teachers through LRTSH, is also director of mathematics at Saint Thomas Aquinas Multi-Academy Trust in Nuneaton.

He sets out what the barriers and prerequisites to becoming a great maths teacher – starting with the numbers.

“I came into maths teaching when I was 39. There were lots of reasons not to do it. The salary was one. Let’s address that elephant first.

“The average salary for a maths teacher in Britain is around £36,000. Surprisingly, the average salary for a maths graduate is also around £36,000. This might make you think that Maths teachers earn around the average salary for their qualifications. However, this ignores that some graduates choose not to work, especially when they have young children. This skews the numbers somewhat. 
“It’s hard to really know what maths graduates who don’t go into teaching earn. However, when the top maths-based careers include investment banking, accountancy, insurance brokering and programming/software engineering, all of which potentially earn much more than a maths teacher, it’s easy to see why maths graduates don’t initially go into teaching. On the other hand, maths teachers get 12 weeks off a year and an excellent pension. There are compensations. Teaching could be seen as a life-style choice. 

“Let’s deal with some prerequisites. To be a maths teacher you have to be good at maths. Yes, honestly, you do. But do you have to be excellent at it? Certainly, to teach A Level Further Maths, you do. But that isn’t most of what we do. I’ve taught fractions far more often than I’ve taught matrices. In my opinion the best maths teachers are people who have found maths difficult at some stage. It might have been degree-level before they found things difficult. But if you never found maths difficult at any stage, how are you supposed to relate to a student who doesn’t understand fractions? So, in my experience, the best maths teachers are not always the best mathematicians. They are the people who can see why a pupil may struggle, unpick the problem and help put it back together. 
“Secondly, if you are going to teach maths you have to love it. It’s not enough to know that a set of axis has x horizontally and y vertically and we go along the corridor and up the stairs. Why not talk about the set of axis as the cartesian plane? It was named after Rene Descartes the French mathematician and philosopher who said “I think therefore I am”. He’s a pretty interesting chap. 
“The division sign (the obelus) was invented by Johann Rahn supposedly because he was running out of parchment and he was poor and couldn’t afford any more. The two-way table (which is actually called a Carrol diagram) was invented by Lewis Carrol (real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). And yes, it’s the same Lewis Carrol that wrote Alice in Wonderland. We learn through stories and maths is full of them. So why is what many maths teachers teach is so dry?” 
“If you truly love something you can talk about it endlessly and you know all the weird and interesting bits and bobs that most people don’t know. And what’s wrong with that? I think that’s what grabs the imagination. That’s what makes the teacher fascinating.” 

“As teachers, we are supposed to inspire the next generation, not bore them to death. Be inspiring.”  
“We have a duty to help those students be financially independent. Students without GCSE maths statistically earn less. You need to care.”  

“And finally, everyone remembers their favourite teacher from school; the one that made a real difference. Be the difference.”  
“If you are going into teaching do those three things.” 

For more information about teacher training, visit 

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