What do you like most about your role as a mathematics teacher?
The contact with the students is probably the highlight of being a teacher for me. That’s what I like about teaching anything, it doesn’t have to be mathematics.
What inspires you about mathematics in particular?
It’s a personal interest. I love mathematics. There are all sorts of different things with mathematics: the history, the people. We’ve also got phenomenal mathematicians here in New Zealand who are very willing to come and speak to students. I get interested students to university to listen to their special public lectures at a level that anybody can understand.
Where can mathematics take you career-wise?
There is a list of a great number of CEOs of big finance companies, banks, insurance, and a huge proportion of them have pure maths degrees. Economics looks for the highest possible mathematical ability. Those are the students they want. The content of mathematics is often not important, it’s the way it makes people start thinking. They think a little bit more abstractly, a bit differently from others and it seems to put them in a good position for making judgement, especially financial and economic. Other places where there is a regular growth are number theory and coding.
Can mathematical ability be developed or is it something innate?
My belief is that anybody should be able to do it. Obviously there is an in-built ability but I think it can be developed a lot more. A lot of people get turned off mathematics at an early age. We don’t have good mathematics teaching early on and a lot of students get turned off because they’ve had negative experiences with it.
How can maths benefit those who are not planning to make it their career?
The level of mathematics set at school will allow people to cope perfectly well with any mathematics in their life. The programme covers most of the processes that people do really need like addition, subtraction, very simple mathematics and a few concepts that might help them problem solve.
What are you previous students doing now?
They’re doing all sorts of things. Some of my best students are doctors and lawyers. One works in Hong Kong in a very high-powered job running a transport and freight company in Hong Kong. I had one student who’s doing Maths at Oxford. A couple of my students are maths teachers. It makes you quite pleased to see someone become a maths teacher.
ACG Senior College is quite international. Is it challenging to teach mathematics to non-native English speakers?
No, it’s fun! You just change your style to deal more with language and it actually helps with teaching for all students because quite often you just assume knowledge and with the second language students you don’t make those assumptions. So you get used to explaining more and it clarifies the language for them.
What advice would you give to students who want to succeed in mathematics?
Work hard. That’s all they have to do. If students have got the right attitude they’ll succeed. It’s as simple as that. It’s the same with everything. What you get out of something is what you put into it.