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Keep a diary of your progress

Q) I am an ex-secondary PE specialist and have taught some maths at KS3. I enjoyed this, but struggled because I am a little rusty. Level 3 and easier was fine but I want to teach up to level 7. In September I will teach maths at KS2 and 3. I would appreciate advice on where to start. The maths department will help but I want to ease the pressure they are under already.

A) I assume this higher-level work will be in the same school where you have already taught some maths. Start working your way through their textbooks, as this will prepare you for any questions pupils might ask. If you keep a diary of your progress, you can make notes of things you find difficult or where you are unsure. Ask several colleagues for help, even on the same topic, as more than likely they will use different approaches and this is really helpful in deepening your own understanding and therefore your ability to communicate the maths.

A book that I would recommend is The Secondary Maths Handbook by Lesley Medcalf (this can be purchased at for pound;10.99).

Originally published in 1998, this can be used alongside the school textbook and this will help refresh your memory as well as give you some good teaching ideas.

Having got yourself hooked on maths, if you feel that want to advance your career in teaching maths then looking at what the Open University has to offer in maths would be useful. You could embark on a second degree specifically in maths. There are many teachers teaching in maths departments who have taken that route. This will allow you to extend pupils with confidence and help you to understand where the maths leads. Of course there is always the TES Teacher Mathagony Aunt for help with concepts that you are finding difficult or where you would like ideas for the classroom.

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Q) Year 56 from our feeder primary schools will soon be visiting our comprehensive. The policy of the school is for them to spend a lesson in each of the areas of the curriculum. Have you any ideas that will contribute to them having a really enjoyable session in maths?

A) The first thought that comes to mind is a maths trail, where pupils can do a variety of activities around the school, finding solutions to maths problems.

A more useful way to spend the time might be to have the department work together to create a series of action mats, six for each of Years 5 and 6.

Pupils spend one-sixth of the lesson on each mat. The teacher circulates and is able to chat to them informally.

The mats can be used again in subsequent years. One might have some ready-made Tangrams with silhouettes that pupils have to complete. Another might use computers with some maths games that they will be using when they come to the school. There are some really great commercially produced action mats by NES Arnold, based on Multi-Link. I have used these successfully with future Year 7s.

The nice thing about action mats is that pupils can be grouped together separately from their current school group so that they work with pupils from other schools, particularly great for those from the smaller primary schools, who will know fewer people.

I have created a poem for the newcomers that you might like to use.

Danger over!

There are red desks found in the room

Does the red really lighten the gloom?

Outside, in large red letters, "Mathematics" is read

Where, by red arrows, each Year 7 is led.

The red door opens wide

As red uniforms step inside.

Out of bags red exercise books are laid,

Beside red textbooks together displayed.

Anxious faces "red" from recent games.

Red chairs occupied, teacher reads out names.

Now a circle of red, silent, the teacher awaits.

Nervous, with red lips set, the noise abates.

Then their new teacher chats with a smile,

Showing his delivery of maths with style.

The danger is over, the fear surpassed.

The subject now cannot be outclassed.

Here on mathematics they're all focussed,

Shoulders hunched forward engrossed.

Too soon, then, the bell is heard ringing

But pupils to their work are still clinging.

Now they know maths isn't a chore

They don't want to rush out through the door.

Smiling chatting faces leave the red room.

Maybe the red really does lighten the gloom.

Wendy Fortescue-Hubbard is a teacher and game inventor. She has been awarded a three-year fellowship by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) to spread maths to the masses. your questions to Mathagony Aunt at

Or write to TES Teacher, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX

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