An excellent mathematician is not necessarily a great teacher. And a great maths teacher does not necessarily have to excel in solving difficult maths problems.
When we talk about primary school or even high school education, the interview committee will test mostly your ability to teach, your attitude to learners and your work, and your readiness for various situations that can happen in a typical maths lesson.
They will use various questions for this purpose. We will try to analyze some of them in the following paragraphs. Let’s start.
- Can you please tell us something about yourself?
The first question, ice breaker. Try to talk in a simple and meaningful way about your education and relevant experience. They should enjoy listening to your words, and get an impression that you can actually explain things in a simple way.
The biggest mistake would be starting your interview with some difficult explanations, lengthy sentences, or handful of technicalities some members of the interview panel may not even understand.
You should also remember that you talk to other human beings. They are looking to employ a new Maths teacher, but also a new colleague… Therefore, in this interview, it is perfectly fine to mention something from your personal life–whether you have a family, or a dog, one or two activities you enjoy doing in your spare time.
- Why do you want to teach at our school?
You can actually answer this question in several ways, and all of them will make sense for the interviewers. Maybe the best answer is praising their school for something (or the school principal in particular, if they lead your interview). Maybe for the reputation of the school, small number of learners in each class, the importance Maths plays in their curriculum, or for great atmosphere in the staff room.
Do your research and find something that deserves a compliment.
Another idea is focusing on the grades, or curriculum. Maybe you feel that you can convey your teaching better to primary school learners, that you have a good understanding for their world and learning abilities, and that’s why you applied with their primary school (and not with the high school in the same area).
Last option consists in referring to professional recommendation, or personal reasons. Maybe you know someone at school (another teacher) and they told you just the best things about the place. Or your child attends classes there, and it will be easier for both of you if you teach there, instead of somewhere else.
Any reason you pick, it should make sense to your interviewers.
- Maths is a difficult subject many learners struggle with. How do you plan to deal with this problem?
You can highlight several things in your answer. First, you plan to use different teaching methods, trying to find what works in each classroom. You will look for the most effective way of conveying your message.
Second, you can emphasize individual approach to each learner. You will try (within your possibilities, of course) to work individually with your learners, and you also hope to get some help from teacher assistants.
Last but not least, you are aware that not all learners will pass with flying colors. Some will get bad marks, some may even drop out. That’s how it works in education, and you aware that Maths is often the subject people fail to pass. You will simply try your best in each lesson, but if someone still fails, we have to accept it.
- You teach a lesson and learners don’t seem to be getting it. What will you do?
This can happen very often to a Maths Teacher. Before anything else, you can ensure the interviewers that you keep your eye on the learners, observing their non-verbal communication, trying to spot any indications that they are not getting it. You can also suggest asking them often whether they understand, so you can move on to the next point in your explanation.
When they are not getting it you may use practical examples, or try to change your teaching method, or simply slow down your pace (if your lesson plans allow for it).
One way or another, members of the interview committee should get an impression that you won’t simply continue, changing nothing, but you will work sensitively with your learners, trying to find the optimal teaching method and the right words for any given Maths lesson…
- How do you plan to deal with disruptive learners?
Regardless of how hard you try, there will always be at least one disruptive learner in a class (which is a better case scenario since sometimes everyone can be disruptive–and that’s the real problem).
You can suggest a few things in your answer. One is trying to identify the reason for their behavior–maybe they are not getting the lesson, they do not respect you as a teacher, or they have some problems in their personal life which translate to their bad behavior in the classroom.
Once you understand the reason for their behavior, you can try to address it, cooperating with the School Management Team (SMT) or other professionals at school. Or with their parents.
Second strategy (which may work well in certain classes and schools) is setting strong and clear rules of discipline at the beginning of the school year (including forms of punishment), and sticking to them in your classes, minimizing the impact the disruptive learners may have on the rest of the learners.
- How do you plan to include parents in your education?
The right answer depends a lot on the grades you are applying for. If you apply for a teaching post at a high school or TVET College, you should probably solve any problems directly with the learners, young adults.
In primary schools, however, parents can help you a lot (and vice-versa). You can say that you plan to inform them about any problems their child may have with Maths, and maybe also instruct them on how they can help their child (doing homework together, practicing with them, hiring a private tutor, etc).
Show the interviewers that you understand the importance of cooperation with parents, and the benefits such a cooperation can bring to everyone involved.
- What are your expectations on the management of this school, and other personnel?
I suggest you to say that you have high expectations on one person only–on yourself. You want to try to do the job as well as possible, to continuously improve your skills in teaching Maths, and to be a nice colleague and companion.
You can also say that it would be nice to get feedback from your colleagues (so you can improve in your work), and to give you a chance and a friendly welcoming, since you’ll be a new force at a school and won’t know anybody.
Alternatively you can point out specifically school counselors (if any) and special education teachers (or teacher assistants) who may help you with learners who’d struggle to understand your Maths lessons.
- What do you consider the toughest aspect of teaching Maths?
This really depends on your view–maybe the fact that the subject is more difficult than other subjects (for the learners), that Maths classes generally have bad reputation and many children attend them with prejudice, or seeing some otherwise talented learners fail to pass your classes.
Anything you pick for your answer, members of the interview committee should get an impression that you count with the tough aspects, that they do not discourage you.
Some other questions you may face in your Maths Teacher job interview
- Tell us about a conflict you had with one of your learners in the past.
- What are the latest trends in Mathematics Education?
- Where do you see yourself in five years from now? (How long do you want to have this job?)
- You’ve seen a bit of our school by now. Do you see any areas for improvement?
- What is your opinion about technology in classes (such as tablets, computers, etc)?
- Do you have any questions?
In this interview, you typically won’t compete with many other people for the job (you can be the only applicant), and they won’t be testing your maths skills with any difficult maths problems (they would not risk embarrassing themselves in a case that they could not interpret your solution–they are not mathematicians after all).
If you manage to convince them about your ability to explain difficult things in a simple way, about your enthusiasm for teaching and right attitude to various situations in a classroom (as explained in the questions and answers in this article), you should make it. I wish you best of luck!