Author on TES: Maths expert, Colin Billett

Tina Akinmade
06th November 2015

Colin Billett has published over 200 resources, received hundreds of good reviews and accumulated more than 120,000 downloads. With over 35 years teaching experience, we asked Colin to tell us why he started publishing resources, what the challenges are for maths teachers and top tips for getting started as an Author on TES.

What made you decide to become an author on TES?  

The advent of computers made authorship of one’s own resources so much easier, giving me the opportunity to produce top quality stuff that met my own needs in the classroom, and in turn that of the learners. The launch of premium resources initially added motivation to put these together products that would be suitable for a whole lesson or more.

Maths can be perceived as a ‘difficult’ subject by students. What can teachers do to challenge this and make maths more appealing to all?

The simple answer is to stop teaching in the way that makes it seem difficult.  Stop teaching at all, in the traditional didactic sense.  There is so much published research that shows the error of this, and gives so many examples of how mathematical concepts and skills can be developed in learners.  Give learners problems that lead to mathematical solutions; give learners challenges, appropriate to their own level, but accessible; promote discussion, and an awareness of the ‘rightness’ of their own answers, instead of relying on ticks from a teacher; get them looking for patterns, relationships, and connections within and between branches of mathematics; develop abstract thinking by getting the learners to make and explore conjectures.

What are the key starting points for an author of maths resources?

What is the purpose? Is it a simple assessment of existing knowledge, skills and application, or an assessment for learning?  Is it to develop a topic they have met before, or to introduce an entirely new topic?  Is it building on something recent, or something they met in a previous year? Can the learners access a new topic without an initial input from the teacher, and if not, does this have to be by a spoken demonstration, or a PowerPoint presentation?  Will it have stretch and challenge for all?

How do you make sure your resources are relevant for teachers and students today?

Firstly, by knowing the syllabus and the specifications from KS1 to KS4, or for the National Standards when I am writing for the US market.  Knowing the assessments that the learners are going to encounter (at whatever stage) and using those to give me clear ideas of what they are eventually going to have to do.  Include suitable opportunities for the things I’ve described above, such as opportunities to share and discuss the work.  Make sure everything is free from gender bias, or at least avoids stereotypes, unless it is purely abstract.  And take any opportunity to embrace cultural diversity. 

In general, what makes a great resource?

A great resource is one that is fit for purpose.  I thought of the analogy of a meal: a bowl of porridge is a solid starting point, quick and efficient for starting the day, and a lesson starter could be just that.  A formal meal could have a starter, a main, and something to finish with – and the main part of the lesson may have something by way of introduction, a period of depth when the learners engage, then a time to stop, reflect and share what has been learnt.  Published resources can have all of these things – including opportunities for learners to try out, and practise, the new skills and knowledge.  It doesn’t have to be done with teacher talk.  Some sort of assessment of learning is helpful to guide the teacher in the future – no more than a light supper.  And the menu is the lesson plan, a suggestion of how it might all be put together.


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