two school girls in front of a white board working on some mathematical equations

A teacher will not be many days into a career in teaching mathematics before they first hear a pupil asking why they are learning whatever it is the lesson is focused on. Whilst asking this question could be perceived as being difficult, it is actually quite understandable. Young people are inquisitive and want to explore meaning in what they are being asked to engage with. They are more likely to learn effectively if they can see purpose in it and link new ideas to existing knowledge and understanding.

The content of some mathematics lessons can be abstract and one of the challenges for the teacher is to, nonetheless, make this meaningful and accessible for all pupils. One of the difficulties teachers face is that ultimately, applications of mathematical concepts learnt about in school can be far more complex than what is typically experienced up to the age of 16. However, application is only one part of a wider set of reasons for learning mathematics. As Matt Nixon discusses in this blog, there is much more behind the rationale for mathematics being a core subject.

Teacher credibility is widely recognised as having a significant positive impact on pupil achievement. Being ready with an immediate and convincing answer to this question is a helpful contributing factor towards building competence and dynamism, especially for teachers early in their career.