Behind the Mathematician is a series designed to see what the best maths teachers do, why they do it, how they got there, and hopefully along the way help inspire the rest of us to move to the next level.
The next post in our series is all about Martin Noon, aka @letsgetmathing and the creator of Let’s Get Mathing, a new website focused on GCSE and A-Level revision. It’s still in it’s early stages, but it is a site that’s going to be very valuable for students and teachers alike. Let’s find out more about Martin:
What is your name/alias?
Martin Noon formerly @dognoon but now @letsgetmathing
What is your role?
I am currently a Deputy Head of Faculty at a school in Essex. I’ve been there since 2004 having moved from my first school in East London,that I was at for 3 years, for the promotion. I started out as KS3 co-ordinator and had that role for many years. I started by introducing a new scheme of work for years 7-9 then went on to developing a 2 year KS3 scheme when our school decided to enter y8 pupils for the year 9 SATs. Well, we had one year of both year 9 and year 8 sitting the SATs all at once (540 pupils) and then the government scrapped it! A few years later when our other DHOF left to move area, my boss and I agreed that KS4 should be my next challenge. We were using the modular spec at that time and had a scheme of work in place but as luck would have it – the government scrapped the modular exams! Hello scheme of work number 3! It was then I realised that I actually liked coming up with new schemes of work. It’s really important to get it right. You can’t just take something that’s from another school and expect it to work at your school. Every school is a different size with a different intake and you need to develop something that will work for your pupils.
Well, that scheme of work lasted a few years and I am now working on our new 5 year SoW, trying to embed mastery, preparing for assessment without levels and continually trying to find ways to boost our A*-C.
How would you describe your teaching style?
Varied, excitable at times, relaxed at others. It really depends on the group and ability in front of me. You can’t expect one style to work with every group. I’ll try new approaches when I feel it is appropriate but will resort to my tried and tested resources that never fail. I think Direct Instruction is an important part of maths teaching. Pupils need to learn from multiple examples and consolidate their understanding with lots of practice. There are however times when I’ll get a group to build a model, construct a diagram or just simply play with some algebra to let them discover things for themselves – but again it’s about picking the right time with the right group. I like to have fun in class; I like to show how much I love maths and why it’s so amazing. Sometimes I get year 10’s looking at me like I’m a weirdo, other times I’ll have year 12’s listening in awe to the wonders of maths. I also have a few stupid catchphrases that involve things that rhyme with math! It makes the kids laugh/cringe.
What made you become involved in Maths education?
I’ll be honest (and I know I’m not alone in this), I had no idea what I wanted to do after University. I’d tried working in offices during the summer breaks and hadn’t been inspired by it. I found it hard to sit in front of a computer all day. My cousin had just started a PGCE course at the IOE, my aunt was a SEN teacher so I suppose teaching was at the back of my mind. A group of my friends were discussing applying for PGCE courses so I thought I’d give it a go. I was still looking at other careers now and again, just to keep my options open. But after a bit of time tutoring for the 11 plus and helping another cousin through the first year of her maths degree, I realised that I like teaching and thought it best I gave it a proper go. Glad I did, teaching maths is brill!
Beyond your main role, what other projects/work are you involved in?
Since being introduced to twitter by ex-colleague @DocendoTim, I have stepped into the website world and am trying to share my own resources and champion the work of others with the rest of the mathematics community.
I have tried my hand at free-lance authoring and will be running some CPDs for Essex next month.
However, my most important projects are my wife and kids.
What do you enjoy about your career?
Apart from the usual joy of seeing a struggling pupil succeed (surely everyone needs to write that!), it has to be sharing resources and networking. Whether it be in the maths team room at break while eating my 6th chocolate digestive, or at a maths conference with 500 other teachers. Learning/finding new stuff is so much fun!
What do you think are the main challenges that maths teachers face?
It comes up a lot – but one thing is that fact some people feel it’s ok to brag about being rubbish at maths! Nobody laughs about being illiterate but its ok to have a chuckle about failing maths! Why?
What advice do you have for people just starting out in Maths education, or who would like to become involved?
Use the web and twitter as a resource. Be proud of being a maths geek in front of the pupils. Make sure you can do every single question you are going to set the pupils.
What tools/resources do you use to help you in your work?
As a leader/manager: Email. Email parents, email SLT, email colleagues. Don’t just tell someone, email them.
As a teacher: Everything you can get your hands on. Don’t be afraid of using a textbook. Don’t be afraid of using an ipad. iDoceo is a great app for teachers, there are loads of other great maths apps. Use fellow teachers as your greatest resource. As Johnny Ball said nearly everything in education is theft!
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
I’ve had loads of great advice but the one that sticks the most is what someone said to me during my first PGCE placement school. The guy (he’ll remain anonymous) taught maths, PE, RE, PSHE and more. In the evenings he worked as a magician so was always busy. His advice – NEVER TAKE A SET OF BOOKS HOME!
Since then I rarely take books home, book marking is done at school 95% of the time. I’ll take tests home but will always try to avoid taking books.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’ve given myself 2 years to see if I can get my website off the ground. There’s not a lot on there yet as during the school day everyone cuts and pastes from other materials because its quicker and easier. But I try to put something of my own creation on my website every couple of weeks. If you can’t find anything you like from my resources then please look at the links page and check out the other amazing websites that are out there. Please visit www.letsgetmathing.co.uk. Tell me what I can do to improve it, suggest resources you’d like me to make. I would appreciate any constructive feedback.
Thanks – And remember. No faffing when you’re mathing!