Rachel Malic, the Foundation’s Communications and PR Officer, speaks to Anoop Mankoo, a Maths teacher at Birmingham Metropolitan College, and the 2000th person to enrol on the Foundation’s GCSE Maths enhancement programme.
I am a lecturer at Birmingham Metropolitan College, based at the Matthew Boulton Campus in the city centre. For the last 3 years I have been teaching maths to students on Access programmes, in particular Health and Social Sciences. Previously to this I taught maths functional skills and before that basic numeracy. This September I will have completed my 7th year at the college – it’s gone so fast!
What do you like best about your job?
The students make the job worthwhile. It’s the satisfaction of teaching maths to those who come in with a negative attitude, thinking they cannot do it. To see that turn round to a point where they enjoy it and they go on to pass a university entrance exam – that’s a real booster. You get a kick out of being part of the process.
They have barriers to jump through and that’s why I’m here. They come in, improve their maths and English skills, and then go on to do what they want to do afterwards. I see the Access Course as a springboard, something they can jump on to reach higher pastures.
Why did you sign up for the Maths Enhancement Course?
Having taught functional skills, maths numeracy, GCSE equivalent, this was perfect for me to get to teach GCSE. At the moment the courses I teach are GCSE equivalent. The students on the Access course are aiming to go to university, and universities now want GCSE.
So this was an ideal opportunity and I wanted to get on board.
What do you hope to get out of the course?
Recently I did a subject specialism course at Warwick University. We did not just sit there and listen but actually tested out the activities students would do. I came away with new strategies for stimulating students. Steve Pardoe (who will be Anoop’s tutor on this) was an amazing facilitator and it was the best course I’ve ever done.
I am hoping this course will be similar and boost my own maths skills and further my knowledge, so that I can assist my students.
Why do you think maths skills are important for the adults you teach?
It is disheartening to come across adults from this country who can’t do what we would think of as a simple calculation – like working out a third of this or a quarter of that. These
are basic skills that we need to function in our everyday lives, so this is a real driving force.
Are there any other training programmes you would like to see The Education and Training Foundation developing?
My other passion is using ICT in class so I am always looking out for programmes to bring in new technology to classrooms. We currently use interactive whiteboards and know about QI Codes, anything that will capture students’ imagination. Sometimes these days it is easier to find an iPad than a pen! All the materials for great courses are interactive and online so some kind of course that helps us get the most out of it would be ideal.
What do you think are the key issues facing teachers like yourself at the moment?
There is a debate we are having here about whether it is best to teach maths using a ‘rote’ method (a technique involving repetition) or not. I can write a question on the board, do an example, and set ten questions, but in my view it is important to go to class and learn from each other. This can be a challenge as a lot of teachers (including me) are set in their ways. So while the big debate is about approaches, the real challenge is about changing mindsets.
What the tutors say:
Steve Pardoe, Professional Development Lead on the Maths Enhancement Programme
I’ve been fortunate to meet & work with hundreds of functional maths and adult numeracy teachers during my career. What attracted me about the GCSE maths enhancement programme is that it provides a route for these people to step up and teach at a higher level – and fill a much-needed gap in the market. The programme models active, collaborative and fun ways to learn maths, which are vital if we’re to engage people who see themselves as having ‘failed’ maths at school, and help them better understand the underpinning concepts of maths – rather than using the same old chalk ‘n’ talk rote-learning methods that have failed them previously.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with recruiting more highly qualified mathematicians into the sector, but we shouldn’t underestimate what those teachers we already have are capable of with the right development and support.
What the other participants say
‘Challenging, engaging, fun’
‘Reinforced that learning can be enjoyable and high level’
‘It is a shame that I have not been taught using this type of learning. I have only recently begun to enjoy maths. Thank you’
‘This programme will give you a rare dedicated time to reflect and learn away from the busy everyday environment’.
About the Maths enhancement programme
The model for the GCSE Maths Enhancement programme was originally commissioned by Department for Education (DfE), developed by the National Centre for Excellence in Teaching Maths (NCETM) and then extended to the FE sector via the Education and Training Foundation, which contracted the Centres for Excellence in Teacher Training to roll out the programme.