Tuesday 2 July 2013

The Terrible Twos

This week marks my two year anniversary as a qualified teacher, and also the two year anniversary of NQTpi. Woo!

As a third-year teacher, I look forward to:
-A slight pay rise (the last automatic one I'll have. Cheers for that, government).
-The authority that comes with the phrase "I used to teach your brother" (of course this is far less impressive than "I used to teach your father", but I've got a good few years until that one I hope).
-Possibly having a TLR (teaching and learning responsibility). I am interviewing for this next week.

Now that the "terrible twos" are behind me and I enter my third year, I thought I'd talk about the terrible twos that appear in mathematics. That is, the things in maths that are always taught together, but perhaps shouldn't be.

Word association test (please join in at home):

Area and ...

HCF and ...

Differentiation and ...

Volume and....

Here's what I think you said: perimeter, LCM, integration, and surface area. Am I right? If you didn't, then I'm guessing you're not a maths teacher.

These things are always taught in pairs. And these are all things that get confused.

My year 9 class are not completely stupid. But every single time they are asked to find the area of a shape, most of them give me the perimeter instead. Why?! I think it is fairly obvious that the word "area" means the amount of space inside the shape. I don't see how this can be confused with the length of the border. But students always get these confused.

Area and perimeter are always taught at the same time. I have heard many maths teachers say that they shouldn't be. They are two entirely different concepts, after all. If we taught them separately, would this confusion be avoided?

Similarly with HCF and LCM. My top-set students always get these confused. I think it's because they think that the HCF must be higher than the LCM, because of the name.

For me, the really interesting one is integration and differentiation. Obviously these are opposites. They're inverse operations, according to the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. But when you think about what they actually do, they don't seem to be that linked at all. Finding the gradient and finding the area don't seem that similar. I think what many maths teachers do is teach differenriation, then teach un-differentiation, and announce that this is called integration, and then teach the application of integration to finding areas. I believe it should be the other way round: teach integration in its own right, and then discover that, holy sh*t, it's the opposite of differentiating! By the way, if your students swear in maths lessons it's a sign that you're doing something right.

Where do you stand on the area/perimeter: together or apart debate?

And congrats to all PGCE/GTP/PGDE teachers that have just qualified! Enjoy your NQT year!
And also congrats to all NQTs who have just passed their probation year! Enjoy your terrible twos!

Emma x x x


  1. Emma your point about pay is freaking me out. Why is this your last year of an automatic pay rise? Are you moving to M6 or has something terrible happened to our pay!?!

  2. It's all about performance related pay now!
    Which would be all very well if it was just about us doing the best for the students. Unfortunately, how will this be measured? On results? On value added?
    Likely to cause some conflict in departments perhaps?

  3. Yes Liz, you will only get a pay rise after this year if you can prove that you deserve it. Presumably schools will base this on meeting performance management targets.

    Now we all know there are some principals out there who would do anything to save money. They could very easily exploit this, and claim most people don't deserve a pay rise.

    It will definitely cause conflicts in some departments. Imagine if your colleague got a raise and you didn't, and yet you're the one who always slogs away marking and planning in your frees and they're always sitting around drinking tea? You'd be annoyed!

    But also there will be conflicts between departments. I bet a lot of teachers already feel like their school has a favourite department. This will bring favouritism to a new level.

    And comparing between departments is so difficult. For example, if my school decided to base our pay on the number of our students who have made three levels of progress from KS2 to GCSE, science could claim it's not fair because students have more maths lessons than science and languages could complain because they don't have any real KS2 data to base it on.

  4. Oh no. It's actually happening. This is very bad. There will be strife. I hope ours is self assessed, in which case I assess myself to be awesome and worth the best pay rise. If we get ours based on A level results, for example, we're screwed. ALIS can tell me the child in front of me should get a C but if they think that tan x = 2 means x = 2/tan then there really isn't much I can do!

  5. I was also thinking of the conflict it could cause in departments when it comes to organising the timetables - the groups you teach will have an impact on your results. As you say Liz, there is only so much you can do in some cases (and you sometimes think where on earth did these targets come from!!)