Behaviour Management in a Mathematics Lesson

As we approach the start of the next term I thought I would share some tips on behaviour management in a mathematics lesson. These are things that I have picked up over the years and have worked well for me. I am sure there are opposing viewpoints and you may find some of these tips work for you and some don’t.

Engaging students in our lessons so their behaviour contributes to learning is often a top priority for new teachers. Try not to think of behaviour management as separate to teaching but rather a direct result of it. An engaging and challenging lesson will do more to create a positive learning environment than any behaviour policy.

That said there are a couple of things you can do to set up an enjoyable lesson.

Seating plans

Get to know your student’s names as quickly as possible. Writing a seating plan is crucial to getting to know your students. How you arrange the plan depends on your teaching style and the needs of your class. Here are some common seating plans for a mathematics lesson.

Behaviour Management in a Mathematics Lesson
Seating plans in a math lesson

If you have never taught the class before or don’t know the students ask your mentor or a colleague to help you. They will be able to advise who works well with who and who to avoid sitting next to each other. You may also need to allow space for a teaching assistant. If your school uses ClassCharts you can sit students based on how they interact with others in the class.

Some students may forget where they sit so make sure to check everyone is in the right place at the start of the lesson. Use your seating plan to address students by name as often as you can. This makes the students feel valued and helps them to understand the importance of sitting where they should.

Follow the policy

Consistency and reasonableness is key when teaching. Speak to your mentor about the school behaviour policy and get his/her advice on how to implement it in your lessons. What works well for them and could work for you? When the students understand you know the school rules they are less likely to challenge you on them.

The best behaviour policies are centred on praise and earning points for their House. Students should feel they have to work hard to earn your praise but when they do you acknowledge their hard work consistently and fairly. It’s up to you to define what hard work is in your lessons. The students will soon pick up what they have to do to earn your praise. Research shows the most effective praise vs sanction ratio for motivating people is about 6 : 1.

Watch your students learn

We all learn maths by doing maths. This is not a complicated idea but it is so often overlooked by too much directed teaching at the front of the class. We have all done it. As teachers we want to make sure the students have understood what they need to.

Look for ways to check their understanding at the start of the lesson. Mini-whiteboards, traffic lights and class discussions are all effective assessment for learning strategies to help you interact with students. The student planner often comes with a built in mini-whiteboard and set of traffic lights.

Knowing who can do what in the first 15 minutes of a lesson means you can focus your attention for the next 5 minutes on helping those who need it. You then have the rest of the lesson to watch your students learn so you can make the most of the plenary later on.

As I mentioned at the start of this blog these are things that have worked for me when it comes to behaviour management in a mathematics lesson. You will have your own teaching style. As is so often with teaching there is no single answer, especially to something as complex as behaviour management.

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About Mr Mathematics

My name is Jonathan Robinson and I am passionate about teaching mathematics. I am currently Head of Maths in the South East of England and have been teaching for over 15 years. I am proud to have helped teachers all over the world to continue to engage and inspire their students with my lessons.

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4 thoughts on “Behaviour Management in a Mathematics Lesson

  1. If you have a child who has trauma history e.g home where domestic abuse is a feature, always sit them at the back of room. This helps them focus, their brain will scan for danger and sitting where you can see everyone helps calm the amygdala and so they can focus on the lesson. Never walk behind them and never stand over them, obvious I know but often fidgety kids get out at the front.

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