School of Education

Maths Student Profiles

Alex O'ConnellAlex O'Connell

PGCE Mathematics 2016/17

Recently I sat at my desk and looked around at my slightly dishevelled classroom after another hectic day of school. I must have look dishevelled myself, and no wonder after how many questions I had asked and been asked that day, or after how many explanations I had given (some successfully, some less so). Whilst I was sat there, in my very own classroom, I had two thoughts: the first was about how much I loved my job, and how lucky I felt to be in such a position; the second was disbelief at how much I had learned along the way. Don’t get me wrong, some days are not this positive. Running a classroom is a lot like spinning plates. It can be precarious, and it can come crashing down around you if you are not careful. But when it works, and the plates stay spinning, it is a fantastically rewarding experience. 


Just over a year prior to this self-reflection I was beginning my PGCE course at the University of Nottingham. Nottingham had been my home for the previous four years after studying an MMath mathematics degree at UoN. I had very little teaching experience at the time with nothing more than a small bit of mentoring under my belt. It was only towards the end of my university experience that I realised teaching was becoming more of a pull; it was a chance to continue with maths in some way, and I had also started to enjoy talking about maths in front of groups of people after becoming a maths ambassador for the university. Falling into all of the clichés, I had also experienced fantastic maths teaching at secondary school that had encouraged me to continue with the subject. I felt teaching would be a great opportunity to replicate this and help inspire others into the subject that I had enjoyed so much.

My knowledge of teaching went as far as ‘you stand in front of some students and talk for a bit’. Being on the PGCE opened my eyes to teaching theory, pedagogy, behaviour management and assessment. The list of all things teaching seemed endless, and at times I felt overwhelmed by how much I didn’t know. But do not panic with this. You are not expected to know it all, let alone know how to do it all. But with such fantastic support, and with such inspiring mentors, this transition was made as smooth as possible. Now, in my very own classroom, I find myself doing these things without thinking, and finding new things to not know nothing about!

What I really enjoyed about the PGCE at Nottingham was the informed practice and approaches to the teaching of mathematics. I had never heard of the CRME (Centre for research in mathematics education) which is situated in the Dearing building at UoN. This department is full of fantastic mathematical minds looking at innovative new ways to develop maths pedagogy. The discussions that I had with mentors helped me to understand my own teaching style and approach to pedagogy. Their wealth of knowledge and experience was a privilege to listen too. My opinions always felt welcome during sessions, and my thinking was always challenged. If I’m being entirely honest, I will always be grateful for the year, and I would do the whole course all over again.

I am currently in my NQT year and loving (almost) every second of it! I have recently had an article published in a mathematics teaching journal, and I am currently setting up a mathsbusters club to help inspire enjoyment of maths around the school. I am still in touch with colleagues and mentors from the PGCE course, and we often share fond memories of a brilliant year. The PGCE course gave me the perfect foundation to start my career in teaching, and I would encourage many more to get involved in, what I believe, is one of the strongest teacher training environments available.


Jacqui JonesJacqui Jones

PGCE Mathematics 2014/15

Students have asked why I wanted to be a teacher several times since I started the job. Despite knowing they're obviously trying to detract me from the lesson, my narcissism compels me to answer. I have realised that my answer changes each time.

They have varied from 'I wanted to work with young people like you', to 'because I love the subject'. I once mentioned my old maths teacher and how great he was. After each of these answers the student has usually just looked at me like my head is made of watermelon and turned away. The truthful answer includes elements of all of these, but honestly it was something I sort of fell into.

I had studied mathematics with education at the Plymouth University, which included working in a secondary school for one morning a week. I had been teaching lifesaving since I was 14 and was used to working with young people. All of this contributed to my decision to apply for the PGCE course at the University of Nottingham.


As is the case for most people, I was very apprehensive when starting out. I felt under-prepared as I hadn't used my 'maths brain' for over three years. None of this mattered however, as the course and the tutors were exceptional. The course seemed designed in a way such that it didn't attempt to produce just one type of teacher, but for each one of us to use our own strengths, becoming our own type of effective teacher!

I can't think of any two people from the course who would be the same in the classroom. What we all do have in common is our outlook on teaching in general, and how we approach difficulties within the classroom. The course is designed to make you think about different teaching styles, to question everything and to really reflect on your own teaching.

The tutors on the course have a wealth of experience stemming from many years of teaching between them. They are very knowledgeable, and are fantastic at giving advice and useful strategies. Just listening to stories about their own experiences could probably fill the course.

I am currently in my second year of teaching at a school within a department with four other University of Nottingham PGCE graduates. We collaborate effectively and have (in my opinion) one of the strongest maths departments in the country. Thanks Nottingham!


Rob Palmer

Rob Palmer

PGCE Mathematics 2013/14

On the final day of my PGCE course, we were asked to bring in a photo that showed ourselves at about the time that we decided to pursue a career in teaching. My photo looked rather different to the majority around me; I found myself surrounded by people who had dreamt of being a teacher from a very young age, whereas I myself had developed a passion for teaching during my time at university.

I studied a masters degree in mathematics at the University of Nottingham, and during this time deepened both a love of my subject as well as a love for the University itself. I had worked with young people a lot throughout my life, through both football coaching and working with young people at my church, and this combination lead me to realise that teaching was a career that I would really enjoy, whilst being one that would also really challenge me and allow me to have a positive influence on the lives of many.

I therefore applied to the PGCE course at the University of Nottingham, and can honestly say that it has been one of the most challenging and rewarding things that I have ever done.


The course is structured in such a way that it encourages you to grapple with your own philosophy of what education should look like, giving you the flexibility to develop into the kind of teacher that you want to be, whilst also offering lots of practical guidance along the way.

The quality and variety of the University-based sessions made the course so enjoyable; the sessions ranged from deeply thought-provoking lectures to interactive games where we considered the best ways to teach mathematics to people who often consider it a dull and difficult subject.

The course also enabled me to have a really broad range of experiences; I had the experience of teaching in a high-achieving private school, teaching in a comprehensive which posed more than its fair share of challenges, and helping in a school specifically for pupils with special educational needs.

Each of these proved to be so valuable in my development as a teacher, and the support provided by the PGCE tutors throughout the course was genuinely outstanding. The expectations of tutors are high, to encourage you to be the best that you can, but long hours of lesson planning quickly become worth it when you get to know your pupils and enable them to sense achievement in your lessons.

I am now a few years into my teaching career, and the journey so far has definitely been both very rewarding and challenging. Since becoming fully qualified, I have worked in two comprehensive schools in Nottingham, whilst also taking a year out to volunteer in Zimbabwe. I am so grateful for the way in which this variety of experiences has developed me as a teacher! I have had classes ranging from Year 7 set 4 through to A level Further Maths, whilst also having the opportunity to learn from many inspiring teachers around me. My experience in Zimbabwe was a very special one – a church in Harare had set up a school where their aim was to educate the most vulnerable students from the local area, and train up local people to teach them. I was given the opportunity to structure their maths curriculum, as well as developing a training programme for the teachers in maths. This brought me back to considering my own philosophies regarding teaching that had been explored in depth during my PGCE, and it is something that I am still now trying to develop. The nice thing about being a few years into teaching, is that I have taught the vast majority of topics at least once now, but the challenge remains to continue building on my previous ideas and to learn from past mistakes, to make my teaching as effective as possible. I still thoroughly enjoy the variety that each day brings and the challenge of engaging students in a fruitful way, and the supportive maths departments that I have been a part of have certainly made it all the more fulfilling along the way!


Adeel Malik

Adeel Malik

PGCE Mathematics 2012/13

I would never say that teaching was always the initial plan after completing my university degree. In fact, my story involves taking that scary step towards a career change. Before starting the course, I was a manager of a renowned hotel on the outskirts of Nottingham. I was working in the finance and leisure department, managing a large number of staff and also on rare occasions, teaching a variety of sports to children. 

It was something I thoroughly enjoyed, and it didn't take me long to realise that I was only rushing to work when I was working with the children as it was much more rewarding. I decided there and then that I needed to pursue this growing passion and applied for the PGCE course.


The course was very well structured, combining theory and practice together to help develop each student professionally. One of the best aspects of the course was pace; it was never too fast where anyone might feel they were being thrown in the deep end. With seminars and lectures exploring theories of learning, engaging structured debates and sharing ideas, you were always prepared for the next step.  

Words do not to do justice to how brilliant each and every tutor was throughout the year. They were highly invested in the success of each of their students, always there for you throughout the course, and continually striving to bring out your personality into your teaching. This is exactly what makes each graduate unique.

After successfully completing the course, I will be undertaking my NQT year at Derby Moor Community School, an inner city school in Derby. I would highly advise anyone that would like to pursue a career in teaching to look no further than the University of Nottingham, it really is the best place to be!



Dom Hudson

PGCE Mathematics 2004/05

I graduated from Loughborough University with a degree in sports science and mathematics and began my PGCE with the University of Nottingham, in September of the same year.

Since leaving the course I have become an Advanced Skills Teacher, worked for the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics, been involved in authoring professional development programmes for Tribal and Pearson, lead mathematics departments and become involved in the leading of whole school issues too; all of which stem from having the best possible support and inspiration during my PGCE year.


The course instantly challenged my pre-conceptions regarding teaching in general, and particularly, the teaching of mathematics. Initially, I thought education was all about getting students "through" exams, as this is very much the way I was taught at school. But from the very first university session, my attitude changed, now believing that education is about ensuring all students are given opportunities to flourish academically by learning mathematics in engaging ways.

I found the course was an ideal mix of preparing me for the practicalities of day-to-day teaching but also developing my personal study skills. The academic rigour of the course allowed me to learn from the literature about the theoretical side of pedagogy, whilst also giving me the opportunity to further my own studies by completing an MA in Education, after the course had finished.



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