As a teacher, you will play a critical role in ensuring that students are provided with quality learning experiences in the maths and numeracy domain. You need to understand relevant mathematical concepts, and also understand and develop pedagogical approaches that maximise students’ learning opportunities and engagement with maths concepts.
Maths skills are also needed to undertake research in Education since quantitative and mixed-methods methodologies are increasingly being employed by educational researchers. Even if you are not directly involved in research, you will have to be able to interpret quantitative research results as published in academic sources (e.g. effectiveness of educational interventions).
Here we focus on diverse aspects related to teaching and understanding mathematical concepts rather than mathematical calculations. Links to resources which cover these are covered in other sections of Achieve@uni. The four aspects are:
Mathematical concepts for Education students, and where to find further resources and help
Depending on the subjects you are enrolled in, and whether you will teach in early childhood education, primary and/or secondary, you will learn and work with specific mathematical concepts as part of your tertiary education experience.
The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority provide a complete set of achievement standards in the Mathematics Domain from Foundation to Year 10. This resource includes important information about the mathematical concepts and skills acquired by students by level and age, the progression from one level to another, and achievement standards:
The key to improving your mathematical skills is to practise and solve as many maths problems as possible. There are lots of online resources to help you improve and practice your maths skills; in this section you will find some helpful resources to get you started.
The following maths worksheets are a good starting point to develop your skills on these mathematical concepts:
The Khan Academy is also a helpful online resource to develop and practice your skills in a variety of maths topics (please note grade levels correspond to the U.S. education system and may not be equivalent to the standards/levels of the Victorian curriculum):
Teaching mathematics is not only the process of showing how to perform mathematical calculations, but also developing students’ problem-solving skills, deep understanding of mathematical concepts and practical applications of maths. In this regard, you will apply principles of learning theories related to constructivism and active learning. During your degree, you will have the chance to apply learning theories to teaching mathematics and develop practical strategies that account for diverse groups of learners. Some key concepts include:
building on students’ knowledge and scaffolding students’ mathematical thinking
sequencing mathematical lessons
integrating tasks, high quality resources and materials to support the learning of all students
developing problem-solving skills
relating maths to meaningful tasks and practical applications
precision and neatness when showing mathematical procedures
making maths enjoyable and providing students with opportunities to practice and enjoy the process of solving problems
The Victorian Education and Training department provides learning and teaching support for maths students
Working with peers to provide and receive feedback is also a helpful strategy, as well as reflecting on your development as a teacher.
Dealing with maths anxiety
One of the main barriers to effective teaching and learning is maths anxiety. This could be due to a gap in mathematical knowledge that makes the student feel anxious. It can also be due to past negative experiences as a maths student, or negative perceptions about one’s ability to solve maths problems. As a teacher, you may have to deal not only with student’s maths anxiety but also your own anxiety when working with mathematical concepts.
An important aspect to take into consideration when dealing with maths anxiety is that it is a learned response and, thus, can be unlearned. Practising maths problems and being exposed to maths is critical to dealing with maths anxiety, as anxiety is negatively reinforced.
There are some helpful strategies to deal with maths anxiety to help you break the cycle negative beliefs-avoid behaviour- negative reinforcement:
Become aware of the triggers and factors that sustain it
Understand what thoughts, feelings and behaviours arise in response or as a result of maths anxiety
Start approaching maths rather than continuing to avoid it
As you increase your exposure, you will gradually improve your knowledge and practice
Reflect on your learning journey and improvement
Ask your peers for help
Finally, Counselling Services can help you identify and implement effective strategies to deal with maths anxiety.
Working with quantitative research data
Being able to read and interpret quantitative research data is a critical skill for teachers and educators. It is important to be able to assess the quantitative information presented in academic sources (e.g. peer reviewed journals) in order to critically analyse results and recommendations from research studies. These skills are needed in order to implement evidence-based educational practices; that is, practices based on reliable research evidence.
These are some strategies to read and interpret quantitative research data. We recommend you to check the Statistics pages to refresh your knowledge about descriptive and inferential statistics:
Read carefully the methodology section of journal articles to assess sample size, sample characteristics, methodology (e.g. was it a pre-post study with the same group of students?) and methods and instruments (e.g. observation, questionnaires,…)
Assess what type of descriptive statistics were obtained and what these statistics tell you about the sample and distribution of scores of the variables that were measured in the study. For example, you may notice that the distribution of scores of the variable of interest (e.g. students’ maths anxiety) is not normally distributed (i.e. there were too many students with extreme anxiety scores); or the sample contains a higher number of female students.
What inferential statistics were obtained and why? Consider whether the statistical tests obtained in the study are the most appropriate considering the research question(s). Pay attention to how results are presented in terms of significance of the result (statistical significance) and effect size (what is the magnitude of the result?).
Assess the recommendations of the study based on your analysis of descriptive statistics, sample size and characteristics, and use of inferential statistics. For example, can an educational intervention be deemed effective for all groups of students if it has only been studied using a specific sample of students?