Name: Dr Christopher Baker
Job Title: Mathematics Teacher and KS5 Coordinator
Organisation: Monks Walk School
Number of years in current position: 1
Qualifications: EngD, BSc, PGCE, PGDip, Chartered Mathematician and Chartered Scientist
Briefly describe the organisation you work for.
Teaching secondary school pupils mathematics from year 7 to further mathematics.
What do you like most about your job?
The variation as no day is the same. Also, teaching new concepts to pupils and sparking their interest in mathematics and the opportunities it provides.
What stimulated your interest in maths, and when?
I was always in top set and took mathematics at A level. At the time, I wanted to go into music as I play the violin, but learning about calculus and complex numbers really interested me and caused me to change my mind and study mathematics at university instead.
What influenced your career choice?
This is effectively my third career after working as an academic in severe accident research at Imperial College, within industry as a mathematician developing mathematical methods for the nuclear industry and managing the Monte Carlo codes. This has allowed me to draw upon my previous work whilst teaching and understand how mathematics is used in various ways. I miss working in industry and forming new mathematics, but my passion for helping pupils see how mathematics can be used in their careers certainly makes up for this.
Which skills do you consider to be essential for your job?
The most important skills are communication and a passion for mathematics. If a pupil sees that their teacher is passionate they respond well to this, even if they think you are little geeky!
Any advice you may have for other individuals considering your career path?Develop your understanding of mathematics at a deep level, not just a harder level and look at how mathematics is used. So for example, in geometry have an understanding of how it is taught and a full understanding of its principles. I always show my copy of Euclid’s Elements when teaching geometry as they can see the formal language it uses compared to what is in KS3 and GCSE. Pupils do not like superficial uses of mathematics but they love you saying how it is really used.
Your future career plans?
Currently I am KS5 Maths coordinator which allows me to coordinate the teaching and learning of A-level mathematics and Core Mathematics at the school I teach in. After this, I will probably look at becoming a head of department, but my real passion is mathematics and its teaching so I will probably look to work at a university developing the next generation of maths teachers. I am most interested in researching about mathematics teaching and pedagogy so I plan to continue this in some form.
What benefits of IMA membership have you observed in your career so far?
I have been involved within the Early Career Mathematicians committee which has been rewarding as it has allowed me to meet lots of different people and I do think that getting involved with meetings and conferences allows you to keep a varied and broad understanding of mathematics and its applications. I have become a Chartered Mathematician and Chartered Scientist which has also advanced my career. I believe getting involved with the IMA builds your contexts and exposure to other areas of mathematics beyond your own specialisms in addition to meeting other mathematicians.