Excellent mathematician is not necessarily a great teacher. And a great math teacher does not necessarily have to excel in solving difficult math puzzles.
When we talk about elementary school, secondary school or even high school education, the hiring committee will test mostly your ability to teach, your attitude to students and your work, and your readiness for various situations that can happen in a typical math lesson.
They will use various questions for this purpose. I 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 hiring panel may not even understand.
You should also remember that you talk to other human beings. They are looking to hire a new Math 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 leisure 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. Perhaps the best answer is praising their school for something (or the administrators in particular, if they lead your interview). Maybe for the reputation of the school, small number of pupils in each class, the importance Math plays in their curriculum, or for great atmosphere in the staff room.
Do your research and find something that deserves a compliment.
Anther idea is focusing on the grade level, or curriculum. Perhaps you feel that you can convey your teaching better to elementary students, that you have a good understanding for their world and learning abilities, and that’s why you applied with their elementary school (and not with the high school in the same area).
Last option consists in referring to professional recommendation, or personal reasons. Perhaps you know someone at school (another teacher) and they told you just the best things about the place. Or your child attends the classes, 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.
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Math is a difficult subject many students struggle with. How do you plan to deal with this problem?
You can emphasize 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 student. You will try (within your possibilities, of course) to work individually with your students, and you also hope to get some help from teaching assistants (especially with special needs students).
Last but not least, you are aware that not all students will pass with flying colors. Some will get bad grades, some may even drop out. That’s how it works in education, and you aware that Math 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 students don’t seem to be getting it. What will you do?
This can happen quite often to a Math Teacher. Before anything else, you can ensure the interviewers that you keep your eye on the students, 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 hiring committee should get an impression that you won’t simply continue, changing nothing. Oppositely, you will work sensitively with your students, trying to find the optimal teaching method and the right words for any given Math lesson…
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How do you plan to deal with disruptive students?
Regardless of how hard you try, there will always be at least one disruptive student 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–perhaps 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 counselors 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 student may have on the rest of the pupils.
How do you plan to include parents in your education?
The right answer depends a lot on the grade level. If you apply for a teaching job at high school or university, you should probably solve any problems directly with the students, young adults.
On elementary or secondary level, 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 Math, and perhaps 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 administrators 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 Math, 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 counselors and special education teachers (or teacher assistants) who may help you with students who’d struggle to comprehend your Math lessons.
Special Tip: You can also download the list of all questions in a one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later:
What do you consider the toughest aspect of teaching Math?
This really depends on your view–perhaps the fact that the subject is more difficult than other subjects (for the students), that Math classes generally have bad reputation and many children attend them with prejudice, or seeing some otherwise talented students fail to pass your classes.
Anything you pick for your answer, members of the hiring 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 Math Teacher job interview
- Tell us about a conflict you had with one of your students in the past.
- What are the latest trends in Math (or applied mathematics)?
- 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?
Speaking from my recruitment experience, interviews for Math Teacher jobs belong to easier interviews in education.
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 math skills with any difficult puzzles (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 situation in a classroom (as explained in the questions and answers in this article), you should make it. I wish you best of luck!
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