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AIBU to teach myself A-Levels and then become a maths teacher?

(61 Posts)
amammabear Fri 27-Jan-17 13:02:49

For background, I have studied A-levels, and had some university education, however, not in this field. At primary school, I was very gifted in Maths, to such an extent that at age 8 I was studying at a secondary school level. However, when I changed primary schools, they refused to stream and put me back at the same level as all the other 8 year olds- at this point I simply switched off to maths. I never made a fuss about it, I simply didn't put in any effort. I'll put some more background in a comment or this will be a very long post!

I'm now seriously considering training to be a maths teacher- but of course I have no relevant qualifications beyond GCSE. It doesn't seem possible to do any kind of access to this without a maths A-level (although if anyone knows a way- please do tell me!) and trying to find places to study it online seem to charge huge amounts, so I'm considering teaching myself- but I haven't a clue where to start with material etc.

Am I expecting too much? What if I'm no longer as capable as I was? How on earth will I manage the study? argh...

amammabear Fri 27-Jan-17 13:03:31

I lived in an area with selection for secondary and passed the 11+ very well, however, I had an utterly awful teacher in year 7 (often drunk, aggressive etc) and although he amazingly recognised that I was good at maths and gave me some more personalised tuition, nothing he did was then passed on. I was streamed into set 2 of five and put on the higher paper level so I could only get a C or above at GCSE or fail, and had a lovely teacher that I got on well with ( and actually fancied like mad! lol!) but he never recognised my potential, and I continued to float along scraping passes here and there with zero effort whatsoever- but the teachers thought that I was borderline as to whether I would pass or not.

There was a turning point during GCSE though, when we did coursework- and I got an A in it. The teacher however was suspicious that I'd got my Mum to do it for me, and although he didn't push that, he didn't pick up that actually my abilities might be greater than recognised and instead kept reminding me that Mum wouldn't be able to help me in my exams- which I always just shrugged off. 6 weeks before the exams, he started to give us revision sheets- these would consist of an example of the concept and a few questions- and suddenly I was in my element. I would take the example, absorb it, and complete the work very quickly. The idea would be that we'd be given a sheet in lesson, work on it during that lesson and the following lesson in the same week- completing 6 revision sheets in total, then complete it as homework- however, I would complete it that day, ask for another in the second lesson and do the same. Well before the 6 weeks were over, I had completed every revision sheet he had ever written (including ones for previous years that he'd not planned to use)- but he still thought I was just taking it home and getting mum to do it.

Come the exams and after the first one, he was pacing the corridor waiting for us to come out, saying it was the hardest GCSE paper he'd ever seen- everyone else was stunned by how hard it was, some people really upset- but I thought it had been fine and then starting thinking that I must've messed it all up if they all thought it was so hard, even the straight A* pupils. On results day, he was waiting for me- of the entire class, I was the only one he wanted to speak to. The average result was below predictions- However I had got a very high A, I only didn't get A* because I barely show workings, because for so many things, I don't have any, I just know the answer lol! We had a long discussion about changing my options to include Maths and Further Maths, but we decided in the end that the same thing would probably happen. He wouldn't be able to give me individual tuition and I'd struggle to cope with the class, and so I didn't do it.

tissuesosoft Fri 27-Jan-17 13:09:29

I think it's great that you want to teach maths but you haven't mentioned a passion for teaching, I strongly suggest spending some time in a maths department in a secondary school to see if you like the environment. Teaching needs teachers with passion for their subject (which you seem to have)!

rollonthesummer Fri 27-Jan-17 13:09:56

I didn't think you necessarily needed to show your workings to get full marks if all of your answers were right?

I would recommend anyone went into teaching at the moment-it's a hideous job, but I don't see why you can't get some a A level revision books and work your way through them? If you find it's too hard, then enroll on a course?

tissuesosoft Fri 27-Jan-17 13:11:14

The jump from gcse to a levels is very high. Have you tried looking on some exam boards (edexcel etc) and having a look at exam papers? Local colleges do night courses for a levels which might be worth a look

PurpleDaisies Fri 27-Jan-17 13:15:31

However I had got a very high A, I only didn't get A because I barely show workings, because for so many things, I don't have any, I just know the answer lol!*

That doesn't bode well for a potential teacher! To be a good teacher you need to understand exactly why you've used a particular technique so you can explain it to others.

Doing A levels sounds fun if you're interested. Perhaps start there and see how you get on.

BToperator Fri 27-Jan-17 13:17:28

You are clearly gifted in maths, but I do wonder how you would get on with teaching it. Would you have the patience to deal with children who didn't just "get it" in the way you do? Have you explored other ways of using your maths ability?

TeenAndTween Fri 27-Jan-17 13:17:40

One thing I would say is that if you can't show your workings you won't make a good teacher. You need to not only be able to do the maths, but also break down the maths into tiny steps so you can show the non-natural mathematicians how it all hangs together.

I have a maths degree, and helped my DD1 with maths in juniors and secondary. I had to learn how to break things down into minute pieces (normally smaller than the teacher was managing) and also how to approach topics from different angles so if she didn't get it one way, she could get it another. I became quite successful with this and on a number of occasions DD was able to explain things to peers that her teacher couldn't because I had shown her a different way of thinking about it.

steppemum Fri 27-Jan-17 13:20:06

I can see that you are probably good at maths, but I am wondering about the teaching element.

You can 'see' the answer, and skip the working out. TBH my son is a bit like this and all through school has sturggled to show his working, while getting the right answer.

The problem is that you need to be able to explain to children, step by step how to get from problem to answer, how to do the nitty gritty of it, and at times, you have to break that down into even smaller steps to help them get it.

Teaching (unless at university level) maths doesn't mean teaching kids who are good at it, in fact it is the ones who are bad at it who need to most input.

To see if you could do it, try explaining something complex to someone else.

I think it is quite easy to do an A level yourself, some of the course price for the online courses will be exam fees, and I am not sure how easy it is to register unless you go through a course/school

BluePancakes Fri 27-Jan-17 13:21:59

It's not unreasonable to teach yourself maths A-L at all. Get yourself a decent textbook (personally I prefer the old style big ones with everything in, rather than the newer thin one-book-per-module ones) and work through it at your own pace. Websites such as Khan Academy can help if there are any particulars you are stuck with. Past exam papers and their mark-schemes are available freely online (eg OCR or EdExcel or AQA etc). You will need to sort yourself out where you can sit the A-Level, and pay to take the exam, plus potentially pay to use a chair and desk at an exam centre. But overall, this is not unreasonable at all, and I say this as a maths tutor.

I do agree with a PP about whether you have a passion for teaching though? Definitely see if you can do work-shadowing at a local school or two so you can see what teaching maths is like. Nothing to stop you from doing the maths A-L for enjoyment though, even if you decide teaching is not for you.

Good luck.

amammabear Fri 27-Jan-17 13:25:44

Lol! Sorry for not clarifying regarding the workings out. I can understand now being older, that just getting the right answer isn't necessarily the important thing, and while I didn't take the time to work out the processes then, knowing the importance of them now, that wouldn't actually be an issue for me.

Regarding coping in a school, that's a less significant issue to me if I'm honest. I'm disabled and wouldn't ever be able to work full time anyway- but I can see other avenues under which I could put these skills to use.

On both those topics, I do very well with helping both my children and others with it, and I'd like to be able to progress that and do some part time teaching and possibly private tuition. Rather than necessarily being a general teacher (as I know I couldn't do a full time job in any profession at all) I'm more looking at specialising and helping children who are either struggling to keep up with the system, or who are particularly gifted and the system is struggling with them- both examples of which I have helped with homework and an excluded child, but I'd like to be able to do this better, and to a higher level. Does that make sense?

notgivingin789 Fri 27-Jan-17 13:25:48

I did an AS level in Maths. Hated it ! I managed to get a B (surprisingly). But dropped it for my A2.

A level Maths is really a jump from GCSE Maths. Don't quote me on this though. Would it be helpful getting some A level books in Maths to see how it is and decide from then ?

amammabear Fri 27-Jan-17 13:28:47

Thanks BluePancakes- That's really helpful.

Obviously if when trying to do the A-Level I struggle as an adult, I then wouldn't pursue it any further.

QuiltedAloeVera Fri 27-Jan-17 13:29:12

Knock yourself out with the Maths.

Think incredibly carefully about teaching. Read through the threads in 'The Staffroom' forum. Get some experience in schools. Being good at a subject does not necessarily mean you can teach it well and certainly doesn't mean you would enjoy teaching it in British schools at the present time.

Also, if on results day, most of the class had got worse results than they'd been led to expect and the only person the teacher wanted to talk to was the one with a high mark.... Doesn't sound like a very nice teacher.

catslife Fri 27-Jan-17 13:30:10

It depends what you mean by the fact that you "have had some uni education"? Do you already have a degree ? In which case once you have taken A level Maths, you could then do a conversion course / PGCE.
I would recommend starting the A level asap as the A level course is being reformed from September 2017 meaning that you wouldn't be able to complete the A level until June 2019. If you start now you could take 2 AS exams this year and 2 A2 exams next year (and also resit an AS to boost your grade if needed).
If you haven't completed your degree then try contacting the OU to see if you can do a Maths Foundation course and then build up extra credits (on top of any you already have) to try to complete a degree.
There hasn't been any coursework in GCSE Maths for a long time OP and the current courses may be harder than you think....

QuiltedAloeVera Fri 27-Jan-17 13:30:22


Read the threads on part-time teaching in the Staffroom.

amammabear Fri 27-Jan-17 13:34:17

Quilted, I do disagree on that- it had been widely discussed that they were particularly hard papers that year, they'd worked out a plan on what to do for the year as a whole which was being explained to everyone as they collected their results- and there was nobody for whom a slightly lower result would change their outcomes for moving onto sixth form etc. Mine was different and needed an individual conversation. There were also a number of other maths teachers for the year and not just mine.

amammabear Fri 27-Jan-17 13:37:54

catslife, no I don't have a degree. The course I chose resulted in a professional qualification at two years, so barely anybody continued onto the third year to complete the degree.

That's very useful information regarding the courses changing, thanks. Regarding a Maths foundation degree- I didn't realise that would be possible and haven't investigated that, but I will do.

PurpleDaisies Fri 27-Jan-17 13:39:20

The thing is, even if it's a hard paper the grade boundaries go down. I can't understand the logic of a gifted student not doing A level maths on the basis of getting an A not an A*.

Still, it's not too late-as others have said there are loads of resources online and it's great fun doing past paper questions.

amammabear Fri 27-Jan-17 13:42:07

PurpleDaisies- It wasn't related to it being an A not an A*, it was that we thought I'd probably do the same thing through a-level as he wouldn't be able to tailor a course to my way of working and I'd drag along on the border of failing again until the end.

It's finding the resources which is part of my query really, so if you have any hints, I'd be grateful.

amammabear Fri 27-Jan-17 13:43:11

Also, the teachers said at the time that they thought they were deliberately trying to bring the grades down a little. It was many many years ago though and I know the system doesn't work the same now

PurpleDaisies Fri 27-Jan-17 13:45:42

Why didn't he think you could tailor your way of working to the maths A level? It's really strange and it's a shame you missed out on doing subjects you clearly wanted to do.

I often use

for stacks of past questions by topic with mark schemes.

amammabear Fri 27-Jan-17 13:48:28

Thanks purple, I don't really know to be honest. In hindsight, I regret it, but maybe I suspect that I would've hated it at the time and it's only BECAUSE of the hindsight that I can see that... If that makes sense!

RB68 Fri 27-Jan-17 14:07:35

yes get the books and just do it. Whatever this sounds like a reasonable plan.

With regards teaching you need to be good at teaching as well as good at maths. So social interaction, crowd control, showing how you do something over and over and in different ways etc.

There are diff ways to access teaching and perhaps an on the job training scheme at primary level might work and help show if you have aptitude for the teaching before you do more academic training and move onto teaching maths at a higher level

RB68 Fri 27-Jan-17 14:10:16

Catslife has some great info for you - I would second the harder than you might think - the level of maths my yr 7 is doing now is on a par with where I was with Maths when I was around 14 or 15 and I was top set predicted A - no A* in my day lol

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