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FE Magazine - Issue 10: The mathematics I do

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Created on 29 April 2010 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 20 May 2010 by ncetm_administrator


FE Magazine Issue 10microphone

The Mathematics I do - Alan Catley

Alan CatleyAbout Me
After 31 years teaching Maths at Durham Johnston School and Tynemouth College, I am now supporting teachers in the constructive use of up-to-date resources in the classroom.

The mathematics I use at work...
covers all aspects of the curriculum and is aimed at students of all ages and abilities.
The mathematics I’ve used in the last week...
has been devoted to devising a flow chart to get me home after being stranded in the French Alps due to volcanic eruptions! Critical path analysis, understanding train timetables and currency conversions have featured prominently. It was also interesting (though upsetting!) to use percentage increase to calculate how much some providers had inflated prices to cash in on others’ misfortune! I haven’t looked into the probability calculations employed by insurance companies when costing out premiums…too upsetting, given that we were told our travel policy does not cover such ‘acts of God’ (surely one of the reasons most people take out such insurance?!).
Mathematics which has amazed and/or surprised me...
is the application of parametric equations (in the form of Lissajous Figures) to create logos in the design industry. Using the constant controller on Autograph to create amazing patterns and figures with equations such as x=sinat, y=cosbt (with t extend up to, say, 50π) and animating small variations on a and/or b. This adds a real sense of beauty and interest to teaching and learning complex topics.
The part of mathematics I like most...
is without doubt teaching A-level Pure Mathematics. It is just such a shame that topics such as matrices and planes in 3D etc. are no longer in the curriculum (unless studying Further Maths). Technological advances in the last ten years have made the teaching and learning of such topics so much more fun. If only these resources had been available thirty years ago. New teachers joining the profession are coming in at such an exciting time with such a variety of ways of getting the message across. I only wish I could start all over again now that we have more than just a ‘piece of chalk’! For all my maths weblinks I use the TSM Resources website.
The part of mathematics I like least...
is trying to give a ‘fair’ assessment of coursework presented by my students. 
A maths teacher I remember...
is Robin Reed. He came straight out of college and took over our sixth form class back in 1970. Lessons were always fun and learning was no effort!
And another teacher I remember...
no names here, but another of my A-level teachers (not maths!) was a couple of years away from retiring and had no interest in motivating us. I certainly learned how not to teach (i.e. do not spend all lesson writing up notes on the board to be copied down!!).
And other people/events that have influenced my attitude to mathematics include...
After 25 years of teaching, attending a course given by Douglas Butler. I had been ‘head in the sand’ for a few years regarding developments back in 1999. Too busy in the summer marking exam papers and too busy the rest of the year ‘teaching’ to keep abreast of resource development. With the introduction of a data projector into my classroom I thought I had best find out what to do with it (no one back then told us!). I picked up some great ideas that day which I immediately adopted, and then developed plenty others of my own. I soon found that I could be far more effective as a teacher the less I taught and the more I directed learning!
Alan is organising an event Putting Mathematics on the Right Track! on 18 June at the National Railway Museum in York.
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