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Secondary PGCE : Mathematics

Cambridge's reputation stood out above the crowd. The activities and the tutors' ethos at the interview matched my views of what makes mathematics interesting and so I was overjoyed to gain a place on the course. A great strength of the course has been the other trainees. We come from a wide variety of backgrounds so there are lots of ways that we have been able to support each other and bounce ideas around.

Mathematics is a creative and highly inter-connected discipline that has been developed over centuries, providing the solution to some of history's most intriguing problems. It is essential to everyday life, critical to science, technology and engineering, and necessary for financial literacy and most forms of employment. A high-quality mathematics education therefore provides a foundation for understanding the world, the ability to reason mathematically, an appreciation of the beauty and power of mathematics, and a sense of enjoyment and curiosity about the subject. (National Curriculum, 2013)

The mathematics course aims to familiarise students with the ways in which mathematics teaching and learning can be organised across the secondary age and attainment range in the state sector, and with the variety of teaching approaches and resources available. 

The mathematics course is run by Steve Watson at the University. Each secondary PGCE course has a seconded mentor, an experienced teacher who assists the subject lecturer for one day each week by teaching some of the sessions, marking written assignments, observing trainees in school and working with new mentors. Mark Dawes from Comberton Village College is the seconded mathematics mentor. 

Bursary & Scholarship (2020/21)

The IMA are offering scholarships of £28,000 to the most gifted candidates training to teach maths.  See the DfE webpages for more details. If you are not eligible for a scholarship, Home/EU and Islands trainees will be eligible for a DfE bursary of up to £26,000.

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Who is this course for?

The Secondary Mathematics PGCE is for graduates whose degree has entailed a substantial study of mathematics. Suitable degrees also include mathematics with statistics, computer science, engineering, physics, and some combinations within natural sciences. A good level of mathematical knowledge, a passion for the subject and the desire to help pupils make sense of mathematics are important attributes for those who wish to teach maths.

Trainee teachers at Cambridge come from a wide variety of backgrounds:
Naomi did a degree in civil engineering but after spending a few weeks teaching in Kenya she wanted a career that was focused on people. Adam had a background in voluntary youth work and teaching seemed an ideal way to combine his mathematical talents with his enjoyment of working with young people. Carolyn worked for a major oil company and spent 25 years in various commercial and financial management roles before deciding to take early retirement from industry and retrain as a teacher.

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What will I study?

The Mathematics PGCE course will enable trainee teachers to experience and explore different ways of teaching and learning mathematics. The Faculty based teaching sessions take place in a workshop atmosphere in which participation by the trainees is an important feature. All of the sessions include opportunities for critical reflection, and encourage the trainees to link their practical, school-based experiences (from their observations or from their own lessons) with the research literature they have read. The Mathematics PGCE course at Cambridge is unique in the extent to which research is integrated with practice from the very start of the course.

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Advice for applicants

It is very important that candidates are able to talk about their views of mathematics and mathematics education and therefore we recommend that all applicants spend at least one week in a mainstream state maintained secondary school observing mathematics prior to application.  It would be desirable for candidates to apprise themselves of the latest developments in mathematics education and other educational issues.


How will this course prepare me for positions of leadership?

Many former PGCE Mathematics trainees have gone onto leadership roles nationally and even internationally. 

Cecilia: I used to teach IT to adults, but having two children of my own and watching them grow and learn inspired me to change from working with adults to children. When I realised I wanted to teach I studied with the Open University to gain a degree.   The PGCE course is structured so you can build up your knowledge and experience in a very progressive way and there is plenty of support from tutors, mentors and other trainees, (Cecilia is now a Specialist Leader in Education and a mentor on our PGCE course.)

Jamie: After my degree in computer science I worked in investment banking and medical publishing. A number of my friends had changed careers to become teachers and, inspired by their comments, I signed up for a 'taster course' in a local school. I very much enjoyed this and it showed that teaching was the career for me.  The PGCE tutors ran an excellent course, getting us to think about maths in different ways and to understand the difficulties and misconceptions pupils have in this vitally important subject.  (Jamie is now Head of Mathematics at a partnership school and a mentor on our course.)

Ben: Before starting the PGCE course I completed an BA in Education in Mathematics. At the beginning of that course I chose education as something to keep me from having to do 'pure' mathematics but after spending two weeks in a secondary school I decided I wanted to teach. I wanted to do something fun and creative at the same time as being challenging and rewarding and I hoped that teaching would meet all of that! (Ben is now Head of Mathematics at a local school and was previously a mentor on our course.)