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Steven Glitherow works for St John’s College School, a preparatory school in Cambridge, with students aged 4 – 13.
How would you characterise your current work?
I have two main roles – a teacher of sport and a Housemaster. Teaching sport involves leading various Physical Education (PE) and Games lessons for groups of students. By contrast, being a Housemaster involves running a boarding house for up to 40 students aged between 8 and 13; this is much more of a pastoral and managerial role.
How do you feel about maths?
I think that maths is a very important subject for students to grasp. It can be less popular for some, but I think it is important to spend time on maths and to understand it. I had one very good maths teacher who was very sporty and liked cricket. He used a lot of practical examples in maths lessons, which helped me to understand mathematical concepts and ideas.
What is it about your work that is mathematical?
When designing PE and Games lessons I need to think about numbers for various drills, repetitions of tasks and timings of activities. As a Housemaster I need to manage the boarding house budget, which is used for activities and supplies for the students who stay in the boarding house. I also need to calculate and manage the fees for students who board full-time and part-time. In addition to this, I need to record the hours that our boarding staff work and pay them accordingly.
How do you use maths, calculation or numeracy in your work? What tools do you use to help you?
I have a set number of beds available for students who board so I need to calculate the number of full-time boarders, flexi-boarders and weekly boarders as well as temporary boarders to ensure that I don’t make a mistake or over-allocate the beds available. Boarding staff (including myself) need to manage boarders’ pocket money so that each child has the amount that their parents have allocated to them. I usually use calculators, spreadsheets and mental arithmetic.
Do you think maths is creative? If so, how?
I think maths is incredibly creative, especially if you think about engineering and architecture. In these subjects you need to apply maths to work things out, but they often result in very creative, visually appealing designs and products. My dad was an engineer and he used maths every day in his job.
Do you use or rely on any maths that you learnt in school?
I think I mostly rely on the basics I learnt; for instance, doing mental arithmetic, adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying numbers.
How would you change the school curriculum, if you had the chance? Why?
From a personal point of view, I would have benefitted from more practical examples in maths, such as calculating tax, managing money when shopping and using credit cards as well as working out and dealing with interest rates. This could help students feel better- prepared for later life. I think I would postpone introducing some things such as equations until students have a basic conceptual understanding of maths. I don’t have a vendetta against algebra or equations – I just don’t use them!
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