The second part is the more traditional pen and paper sort of maths. I found this section less intimidating than the first part, because although there was an overall time limit, it wasn’t a limit per question. I still had to work hard to get through it though.
I owe my success in this part to two men: Derek Haylock and my dad! I bought a copy of Derek Haylock’s Mathematics Explained for Primary Teachers and worked my way through it. It’s on the reading list for a lot of primary PGCE courses, but I’d also recommend it to secondary teachers worried about the skills test. You can often pick up second-hand copies on Amazon fairly cheaply.
I worked through the book cover to cover and almost everything fell into place. All those equations and theories and rules and numbers and letters that had seemed completely meaningless while I was at school, suddenly made sense. The writer has a really easy to read, easy to understand style, and he makes maths seem a lot less scary.
As I worked through the book, I made a note of anything I still wasn’t sure of. It was actually surprisingly little as the book was so good, but there were one or two things – box and whisker diagrams for a start! Then I gave my dad a copy of the book and my list, and he tutored me for one hour a week for about three weeks, by which time I was feeling confident.
Now not everyone is lucky enough to have my dad, but if you have family or friends who are good at maths you could ask them for the same help. The advantage of working through the book the way I did, means that you are able to ask for very specific, targeted help rather than having to say. “I just don’t get it. Teach me the whole of maths.” Obviously this means a financial advantage to you if you are considering a tutor because you won’t need to pay for as many sessions.
I know a lot of people hate the skills tests and question their necessity when you already have to prove you have a grade C or above at GCSE to get a place on a teacher training course. However I’m really grateful that I had to take it. It’s made me relearn my maths and I feel so much more confident than I ever used to. I also feel that it’s made me a better teacher. Having struggled for years, I can understand why people find it so hard, but having finally made sense of it I know there is a way.
If you feel you need one-to-one help to pass your skills tests, and you live in north Birmingham, get in touch to see how I can help you.