Maths - Awesome ideas, dude

A how-to book on teaching that really lives up to its title

Craig Barton

When I saw the title of this book by William Emeny, 100 Things Awesome Teachers Do, I was sceptical. The last time I used the word "awesome" was 20 years ago when I was watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I am also immediately wary of any book that tells me how to teach, given that they are often written by people who have long since left the classroom. In this case, however, my fears were misplaced - the book is brilliant.

It contains practical tips that the author is keen to point out are merely suggestions. Not all of them will work for everybody, and he suggests adapting the ideas to suit your own teaching style and pupil needs. The tips are written in a friendly, concise and unpatronising way, and the author's obvious passion for his job bounces off the pages.

The following ideas struck a particular chord with me:

- Concentrate on the learning and not the teaching - all the PowerPoint presentations in the world will not help your pupils if they are not given time to think and learn on their own.

- Use the same starter and plenary - this allows pupils to reflect on what they have learned and demonstrates the progress made in the lesson should you be under observation.

- Ask the pupils "what did I want you to learn today?" - a simple but effective plenary.

- If pushed for time, plan just your questions. This is my favourite tip because questions, above anything else, are what define a lesson and make it a success.

Many of these ideas seem obvious, but reading through them gave me the chance to reflect on my own teaching and think of changes I could make.

The ideas I've mentioned are all from the first chapter, "Lesson planning". Other chapters include "Managing behaviour", "Independent learning", "High-ability students" and "Marking and feedback"; all of them are crammed with outstanding ideas.

I would heartily recommend this book to any teacher whatever their subject, whether they are new to the profession or perhaps looking for new ideas and a chance to reflect on their existing practices. As Donatello the turtle might have said, this book is simply awesome, dude.

Craig Barton is an advanced skills teacher from Thornleigh Salesian College, Bolton. He is also the creator of and TES secondary maths adviser. He can be found on Twitter using @TESMaths

What else?

Show pupils how important maths has been throughout history and across the globe, with l.john66's display of world mathematicians.

Looking for inspirational ways to kick-start your class? Try shahira ibrahim's maths starters.

In the forums

What makes a good maths lesson? Take a look at the checklist being compiled by maths teachers on the forum.

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Craig Barton

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