It all adds up

20th June 2008 at 01:00
Is a maths degree essential to teach the subject, and are exams getting easier? Gail Robinson checks out your views on The TES website
Is a maths degree essential to teach the subject, and are exams getting easier? Gail Robinson checks out your views on The TES website

Do maths teachers need a maths degree? Less than half of those in secondary schools in England have one, according to a government-commissioned study, and this has caused a furore on The TES maths forum.

Maths_Mike thinks a degree is not needed and says he would prefer "experience in the classroom over paper qualifications any day of the week".

Maths HOD agrees: "I lead a team where almost a third of staff do not have a mathematical degree background and all are excellent teachers. What they have in common is that they all did a maths PGCE. The experiences and ideas they bring into their lessons are great."

Fageer goes one step further and says: "A degree in maths makes many maths teachers over qualified to teach in a school. Rigorous first-year uni maths is all that's necessary."

Twentysix sees one danger with a lack of subject specialism, "the view that maths is simply a tool for science and nothing more. Almost everyone on my PGCE in the late Nineties had a utilitarian view of maths and were bemused by my excitement about the discovery of patterns."

Add your own comment on this debate at

Our forum users have also been talking about that perennial subject, exams getting easier (

A study by Reform, the right-of-centre think-tank, came to that conclusion after comparing maths exam papers taken by 16-year-olds between 1951 and 2006.

Ted Crilly makes the point by quoting this question from a 1957 O-level paper: "Prove that the line which bisects the vertical angle of a triangle internally divides the base internally in the ratio of the sides containing the angle."

LadsNR thinks the only way forward is a "two GCSE system of functional and real" while Mikeedanz puts it all down to politics: "How else are you going to get the 'magic' five or more at A*-C grades at GCSE without dropping the bar sufficiently low?"

Finally ts05's plea for inspiration to encourage girls to take maths at A-level produced some useful suggestions from the user Moved ( One is to set up a "mathematician of the week" display featuring both male and female maths specialists; another is to arrange a maths-based club for Years 7 and 8 to raise the subject's profile so that more girls choose maths

Gail Robinson is The TES website community producer


- This table top caterpillar number line for early years and key stage 1 is one of our most downloaded maths resources;

- This selection of maths code breakers aims to stimulate children's minds. Suitable for ages seven to 11;

- Maths investigation starter sheets for KS3;

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today