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Mathagony Aunt

Q Figure out the root of your unlucky number

I'm training to be an RE teacher in Birmingham but I'm having trouble with the numeracy exam. I've failed it three times. Will I still get a job if I haven't passed it before September?

A The website for the Training and Development Agency for Schools says the following: "The qualified teacher status (QTS) skills tests cover the core skills in numeracy, literacy and information and communication technology needed to fulfil your wider professional role in a school. Passing the tests is one of the standards for QTS and is a requirement for all trainee teachers in England (including those being assessed for the award of QTS whilst working as a teacher) regardless of their programme of initial teacher training. Until all relevant skills tests have been passed and the other QTS standards met, your training provider or recommending body will be unable to recommend you for QTS. This will mean that you will be unable to take up a qualified teaching post in an LEA maintained school or non-maintained special school." words=online+numeracy+test

Having failed three times, I imagine you are feeling extremely negative. I suggest you analyse the questions or topics you're not getting right. Ask your fellow students if they can help you, and approach your lecturers and tell them of your difficulty. People who consider they might be dyslexic should read about the symptoms and try an online test at:

Q I am a supply teacher and have taught some maths. I've been asked to cover one of the maths team for a couple of months and I have to teach equations of straight line graphs. Is there a correct way to start?

A There are many ways to begin. I would start with the vertical and horizontal lines. Have a graph on the board and ask pupils to plot the points A (5, 1), B (2, 1) and C (-6, 1). Then choose another point on the same line and ask: if the x co-ordinate is 10, what is the y co-ordinate?

(y = 1). What can they tell you about the three points? They are all on a straight line and they all have y = 1. So the "name" of the line is y=1, as each point on this line has 1 as the y co-ordinate.

Draw more horizontal lines and ask pupils to come out and label these;

include the line y = 0 (the x-axis).

Move on to vertical lines; these have the equation x = c, where c is a constant. Ask them the co-ordinate for the point where the lines y=4 and x=-2 meet (-2, 4).

If they aren't certain, draw the lines to illustrate. Engage the whole class in responding to questions based on these lines and crossing points, responding in pairs with whiteboards if they have them.

Next, have the line y = x unlabelled on the board and ask pupils to tell you the co-ordinates of various points on this line. In this example, A is (2, 2), B is (-1, - 1) and C is (-5, - 5).

Then tell them you are extending the line to a point off the board: if the x co-ordinate is 16, what is y? (y = 16). Above A's co-ordinates, write (x, y) in their respective positions.

Ask pupils to describe the relationship between x and y: y = x or x=y (although the correct format is y=x). Ask what they would expect y=-x to look like? Explore this with them.

Draw a line parallel to the line y = x and ask pupils to explain the relationship between the lines. For some classes you might find it helpful to label the points vertically above the three original points. Explore what has happened to these points. In this example, all the points have moved up four units; the equation of the line is y = x + 4.

If you have Autograph or Omnigraph, get them to design a tartan pattern, labelling the lines they have used so that a friend can recreate the pattern from their rules.

The next stages will look at what happens when the gradient of the line changes. I've dealt with this as a separate column. If you email me, I will send on the PowerPoint slides that I created for this lesson.

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.

Email your questions to Mathagony Aunt at Or write to TES Teacher, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX

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