Nurturing Mathematics Teachers with a Professional Attitude
The Bachelor of Education in Mathematics and Mathematics Education (BMED) Programme was launched in 2012 in response to the increasing demand for qualified subject-trained mathematics teachers.
Prof. Wilfred Lau, BMED Coordinator, said, ‘Mathematics teachers well versed in the subject and have received initial teacher training are well sought after in schools in Hong Kong and elsewhere. To this end, this five-year interdisciplinary double major programme aims to develop students with solid pedagogical content knowledge, professional attitudes and skills, and practical field experience for them to teach in secondary schools.’
The programme is offered by the Faculty of Education in collaboration with the Department of Mathematics. It emphasizes training in both theoretical and practical areas. Graduates will be awarded a Bachelor of Education Degree in Mathematics and Mathematics Education including a qualification equivalent to a Postgraduate Diploma in Education. Graduates will be qualified to teach in secondary schools.
Mathematics could be a headache to some, but to many, Galileo being one, it is ‘the language with which God wrote the universe’. Lee Ying-wai who has just completed the fourth year of BMED can’t agree more. ‘I have been fascinated by the power and beauty of mathematics since I was a small child, and I want to share the joy I find in mathematics with the younger generations,’ he said.
While the ability to grasp mathematical logic should be common among students of average intelligence, a disproportionately high number of students lose interest in mathematics or find it difficult to proceed to higher levels after entering secondary school. It is not unusual to see math teachers, being competent math learners themselves, fail to employ the appropriate approach to disseminate the subject content effectively to students of mediocre ability because they consider mathematical competency a gift, not an acquirable attribute. Being a high achiever in the discipline, Ying-wai is sensible enough to realize that faring well in it alone will not make him a good math teacher. ‘I need to equip myself with advanced mathematical knowledge and skills, practical pedagogy as well as teaching experience. I chose this programme because it covers the subject knowledge and applications of mathematics, mathematics teaching and education studies. This is exactly the training I need.’
A teacher from the Mathematics Department serves as Ying-wai’s role model. ‘He has excellent presentation skills, substantial knowledge as well as a professional attitude. While attending his lectures, I’m witnessing the most ideal mathematics lesson that I could have ever imagined and experienced. He inspires me to reflect on the correct attitude of learning and teaching mathematics.’
Having an annual intake of only 22 students, BMED recruits the best students who are passionate about math teaching. Ying-wai enjoys sharing experiences in learning and teaching with his enthusiastic peers. ‘My classmates are talented each in their own way. Interacting with them helps sharpen my math sense and open up new perspectives for me.’
BMED offers a wide array of subject content courses for students to enhance their knowledge in advanced mathematics. As Ying-wai put it, ‘Teachers need to acquire a deeper understanding of advanced mathematics, not only the subject contents in the school syllabuses, in order to teach well and cater for the needs of high ability students.’
Students’ professional competency is developed by courses on pedagogy and educational studies taught by professors from the Faculty of Education, to be reinforced by the components of Teaching Practice and Research Experience.
Professor Lau explained how student teachers’ classroom engagement evolves through different phases of Teaching Practice: ‘In Years 1 and 2, students visit different educational institutes to observe and learn about various school settings and teachers’ responsibilities. During school attachment in Year 3, they are required to stay in secondary schools as normal teachers to observe and participate in classroom and school activities from the perspectives of both teachers and students. The teaching practice in Years 4 and 5 will create important experiential and field learning experiences for students. They will be assigned to secondary schools to teach under the guidance and supervision of teaching advisers who are experienced teachers of the practicum schools.’
The majority of BMED graduates joined the teaching force after graduation. With experience gained over time, some assumed leading roles in mathematics teaching in secondary schools. With the solid knowledge and skills developed in this programme, graduates may also pursue a career in a wide range of professions such as science and technology, finance and banking, civil service, publishing, etc. The programme also lays a firm foundation for graduates who desire to pursue advanced study in mathematics education or related areas.
Knowledge and skills apart, professionalism is an attitude. ‘The programme always reminds me that teachers are professionals and we must treat teaching seriously and behave responsibly.’ This is perhaps what Ying-wai treasures most about BMED.
Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2018