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What Makes a Good Mathematics Teacher?




The Mathematics teacher plays a versatile role in the development of mathematical skills and concepts in the learners. She/He plays an important and focal role in enhancing the learning of mathematics in the students. Good mathematics teachers are honed by experience and good academic preparation.

A good mathematics teacher must be aware of the nature of Mathematics as a discipline: Know thy subject. This is important because Mathematics by nature is abstract, hence the necessity of relating concepts to what one can comprehend in the real world. Once a teacher realizes this aspect about mathematics, she/he would understand better how to present the lessons in a meaningful, concrete and interesting way.

Another characteristic that makes a good mathematics teacher would be her/his knowledge on the nature of her/his learners. This is very basic principle in teaching: Know thy learners. The developmental stages of the learner could guide the teacher on what issues or topics would interest them. Pupils in the elementary for example would be fascinated with stories on make-believe and fairy tales, while students in secondary level would be more inclined to true-to-life, mystery and love stories. Elementary children, are still on the concrete operation stage hence the need to bombard them with the concretization aspect of learning. While secondary students are already on the formal operation stage hence teachers are now more logical, reflective and critical in their approach.




Knowledge on the content and subject matter would also be essential for good teaching: Master thy lesson. It is said that one cannot give what she/he does not have. A good mathematics teacher should have a good mastery of her/his subject. This would certainly require good academic preparation and background on the content of mathematics subjects to be taught. Specialization for majors/minors in mathematics would be an asset.

It is also important that mathematics teachers should know the goals, aims and objectives of Mathematics teaching: Know where you are bound to. This is relevant otherwise one will not be able to achieve what was intended to achieve.




Inherent to being a good mathematics teacher would require a pleasant personality and good disposition. A mathematics teacher should possess a scientific attitude. She/he should have the ability to think logically and speak clearly and intelligently. She/he should have patience, respect and love for the students to show fairness and impartiality.

A list of characteristics that makes a good mathematics teacher are the following:

A. ACADEMIC PREPARATION:

  1. knows the subject matter thoroughly;
  2. is serious in accomplishing her/his objectives;
  3. continues to study and learn;
  4. is interested in his professional growth;
  5. updates and upgrades herself/himself;

B. METHODS OF TEACHING:

  1. makes a good plan and organizes her/his lessons well;
  2. is prepared for the lesson;
  3. does things orderly and systematically;
  4. begins and ends on time;
  5. has definite aims to accomplish everyday;
  6. uses a variety of teaching methods;
  7. uses different techniques in teaching and a variety of modes of instruction;
  8. uses varying devices and supplementary materials in his teaching;
  9. conducts the class in an easy and natural manner;
  10. checks errors and does remedial instruction;
  11. gives drill and review as part of her/his daily lesson;
  12. gives motivational techniques before presenting a new lesson;
  13. gives exercises and evaluation materials to test the achievement and performance of the learners;
  14. allows for creative expression and freedom in communication;
  15. asks students to give their summary and generalizations of the lessons learned;
  16. allows for inquiry, reflective thinking and creative expressions;
  17. gives varying activities that allows for the development of students skills and interests;
  18. gives assignment that are clear and understood by the students;
  19. adheres to student-centered approach and recognizes individual differences of students;
  20. fosters concretization of abstract concepts.

C. PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES:

  1. is neat and well-groomed;
  2. is firm but kind;
  3. is stimulating, motivating and enthusiastic in her/his work;
  4. is polite, courteous, tolerant and open-minded;
  5. has a sense of himor

Characteristics of teachers disliked by students include:

  1. Bad tempered and intolerant.
  2. Unfair and impartial.
  3. Sarcastic and insulting.
  4. Unattractive in appearance.
  5. Impatient and inflexible.
  6. Unreasonable demands.
  7. Over-bearing.
  8. No sense of humor.
  9. Talks excessively.
  10. Lazy and apathetic.

Quality teaching and learning in Mathematics require that teachers:

  • Start from where the students are.
  • Recognize that students learn at different rates and in different ways.
  • Allow students time to reflect on their own learning and thinking.
  • Involve students physically in the learning process.
  • Encourage students to expand their mode of communication in Mathematics.
  • Respond to the interests, concerns and personal beliefs of the students.
  • Convey the wholeness of Mathematics rather than presenting it as a disjointed collection of topics.
  • Recognize the importance of reflection, critical thinking and logical reasoning for effective learning.
  • Encourage students to learn together in cooperative small groups.
  • Invoke the power of visual imagery and mental arithmetic.
  • Recognize the power of stories and vignettes as lesson presentations.
  • Encourage the non-threatening atmosphere and the participation of all students.
  • Encourage a wide variety of strategies in problem solving and investigation.
  • Recognize the key role of parents in the student’s development.
  • Use the full range of available and appropriate technology.
  • Recognize the special needs and individual differences of students.
  • Use a range of assessment procedures which reflect different approaches to teaching and learning.

So as you can imagine, a good math teacher appreciates change, and even welcomes it.  Throw in a little daily enthusiasm, and you have exactly what it takes to be a great math teacher.

I welcome your comments.




Photo Courtesy: Dennis Tern / Star of Hope

1 thought on “What Makes a Good Mathematics Teacher?”

  1. A good math teacher should

    1. be able to figure out when a student’s understanding becomes better than his own to recommend some reading or to pass the student on to a more knowledgeable teacher
    2. develop individual approaches for gifted students (say, emphasizing theoretical vs problem based depending on the student)
    3. be realistic in estimating the impact of his teaching work on students, and not be lazy, e.g. repeat important things again and again
    4. have enough “infectious enthusiasm”; without it any efforts will be pointless

    (clearly there’s much more, but that’s something that comes to my mind right away)

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