Teacher as author;Interview;Jean Cheshire

21st May 1999 at 01:00
Jean Cheshire is maths SENCO at Homewood School and sixth-form college, Tenterden, Kent. She is one of the authors of Maths Direct, a new scheme from Collins aimed at lower ability pupils aged 11 to 14 I got involved in Maths Direct because my former head of department was asked to suggest someone with "individual" methods of teaching. My teaching methods tend to be more practical. The head of department came into my classroom one day to find me making toasted sandwiches, as a way into flow diagrams and fractions.

I wanted to write the book because we were finding nothing available for lower ability pupils in this age group, only for primary pupils. Maths textbooks tend to assume pupils understand the concepts, but sometimes they don't. Teaching about time, for instance, I take pupils out and do time trials first, so they get the concept. Then they understand the maths better and remember it better, because they've had hands-on experience.

Before I met Mundher Adhami, the series editor, I'd contributed ideas for the London Board examination, GAIM (graded assessment in mathematics) and he seemed to like the sort of things I'd done in school. I've based my sections of the books mainly on what I do; shape and space is my particular area, and I teach a lot of it through art. But the books have also made me think about other things I could be doing.

The series takes topics in small bites, and spirals round so you come back to things. Some maths books are very wordy, but we've tried to make this fairly concise and in line with pupils' reading ability. I've been using the books with 11 and 12-year-olds in lower-ability classes, and the whole room is completely silent, because they can read it and it's approachable.

Writing the books has been a tie, with deadlines hanging over you all the time. Everything else, like decorating the house, has had to go on hold. I feel we've achieved what we wanted to - and now it's time for a break.

Jean Cheshire was talking to Diana Hinds

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