Lecturer in Primary teaching, Faculty of Education
Pete Sanders’ passion for improving Primary mathematics teaching is infectious. ‘I’m working on changing the view that maths is something that only happens in the classroom,’ he says. Many of his students have a long-standing fear of teaching maths, but all leave his courses with an understanding that the subject does not have to be dull or unintelligible.
Pete brings about this change by giving his students practical skills and hands-on experience, and by challenging their assumptions about maths teaching and learning. He often begins a course by asking students to examine the way they approach a maths problem in daily life, and most find that the strategies they now use have little to do with what they learnt in their childhood classrooms.
Pete then explains to these trainee teachers that their own students will also have their own unique approaches to solving maths problems, and that maths teaching should build on these approaches, rather than imposing a single way to arrive at an answer. ‘We’re sometimes too quick to disregard children’s ideas about solving maths problems,’ he explains.
Pete recalls one particular student who was ready to give up on her Year 5/6 teaching placement because of her reluctance to teach maths. With Pete’s encouragement, this student did manage to complete her practicum, and Pete says he was extremely impressed with her maths teaching when he later observed her lessons. ‘She got over her fear, and I truly believe she won’t look back,’ says Pete. ‘Watching students change and thrive like that is the most rewarding aspect of my teaching.’