4 tips to help you ace your first year of teaching with Maths — No Problem!
From figuring out your resources to learning how to manage your time, here’s how to make your new-term resolutions stick and ace your first year of teaching with Maths — No Problem!
The first day of school is never really the ‘first day’. You’ve probably spent weeks researching, planning and making sure you have everything you need to support your learners. This is especially true for teachers who are starting their first year of teaching with a maths mastery approach.
So to help you stay on track, we’ve put together four of our top tips for your first year of teaching with Maths — No Problem!
1. Follow your Maths — No Problem! resources list
At the beginning of your journey, Maths — No Problem! provides a resource list that outlines every maths mastery resource you’ll need throughout the year. Using this at the beginning of the year will help you organise your classroom and ensure you avoid unnecessary resources taking up precious space that you’re not ever going to use.
Where to keep number topic resources
As a general rule, the number topic resources are the ones that should live in your classroom permanently — as they’re the ones you’ll use over and over again. Often, the non-number topics resources will be used by multiple year groups. You don’t need them to be within reach in your classroom as they’re only used for one specific chapter.
Where to put the teacher tray
It can be really helpful to have a teacher tray at the front of the room. This tray can include number topic resources, so you don’t have to get these individually for every lesson.
If you’re teaching younger year groups, it’s useful to have resources like unifix cubes or Base 10 blocks. I found that sticking magnets to the back of my maths mastery resources makes it really easy to work through concrete methods on the board with the class.
How to use mini whiteboards
If I had to choose a favourite classroom resource mini whiteboards would be a major contender!
Mini whiteboards are my favourite way to teach the anchor task. The anchor task lets children explore and surface their ideas in an unstructured way, and mini whiteboards are perfect for supporting this mindset.
The anchor task can be done in a book or on paper but sometimes learners are less likely to want to explore and make mistakes in books because they carry a certain expectation. Books have presentation standards and mistakes can feel permanent. It can be particularly difficult for ‘perfectionist’ learners to work in books, as they often don’t like to have wrong answers or crossing out.
There’s no need to have permanent evidence of the anchor task. You’ll have plenty of other opportunities throughout the lesson to evidence a learner’s level of understanding. The anchor task is about letting them try out different things without limitations.
2. Get familiar with the Maths — No Problem! lesson structure and white space
The first time I taught the Maths — No Problem! approach, I was teaching in Year 1. I quickly realised that being so young, my learners didn’t have the behaviour yet for coping with whole-class lessons. I also didn’t know the children well enough to successfully pair them using the mixed ability model.
One thing I found really useful was making use of ‘white space’ during the first few weeks to help establish the routine of the lesson structure before moving to whole-class teaching.
What is white space in Maths — No Problem! lessons?
What’s white space you ask? There are more days in the school year than there are lessons in the Maths — No Problem! textbooks.
In the first weeks of teaching with Maths — No Problem! I ran the classroom like a carousel, with five mixed-ability groups. During the week I’d cover four independent activities plus one Maths — No Problem! lesson.
I would teach the same lesson to one of the five groups each day while the other groups did one of the activities independently. The independent activities would support the objectives of the week’s main lesson.
Here’s what it should look like for each year group:
White Space %
This really helped me manage my time during the lesson and get used to this lesson approach before having to manage 30 children all at once. It also allowed me to work closely with each child for a couple of weeks so I could understand who they were and how they liked to work.
3. Manage your teaching time with a timer
This next tip won’t be for everyone but it was something I found really useful in my first year. Time management was one of the biggest challenges at the beginning of teaching with Maths — No Problem! so I decided to use a timer during the anchor task.
I would introduce the problem to my learners and then on the interactive whiteboard we would turn on a 10 minute timer. This meant I didn’t have to worry about the time and I could focus on listening to what they were saying as I walked around the room.
Top tip: Remember to minimise the timer on the screen otherwise learners will watch it and it can become counter productive.
4. Use bookmarks with younger year groups
If you teach learners aged 5–7, you’ll appreciate this next tip. Finding the page in the textbook doesn’t seem like a big deal, but for young children, this simple task could take half the lesson.
Choosing to use bookmarks with younger children helps them easily find their page in the textbooks and workbooks. This works really well as a starting point, but remember to also make a point of showing learners where the page number is so they develop an understanding of how books work. Eventually they’ll no longer need the book mark.
Doing anything for the first time can be an adjustment and it’s all about managing your own expectations. Don’t expect to be perfect from the outset. Instead, try choosing just a few key things to focus on. Try different ways to store resources or mix up the maths buddies.
If something doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to change it.
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