How best to work with additional adults in maths lessons

This post is dedicated to the wonderful City Year volunteers who tirelessly dedicated themselves to the pupils of King Solomon Academy, four days a week for a whole year.

In response to tonight’s #mathscpdchat, I’ve written down my thoughts on establishing a positive working relationship that has benefits for you, for them and for the pupils. These thoughts come from reflecting on 2 years of working closely with additional adults, one year where I got it wrong and then another year where I put things in place for both of us at the beginning of the year to get it right.

And there are many synergistic benefits to getting this right:

  1. To become a high performing teacher we have to expect more from ourselves but operating at this level all the time is difficult and with so much going on we may miss things. An extra adult can take the responsibility for some things in the lesson, e.g. writing the agenda, entering merits, which allows you to focus on other things and keep teaching to a high standard reassured by the fact that things you used to do are still being done. This is good for you and it’s good for the pupils.
  2. An extra adult is an extra pair of eyes. They can spot behaviours (good and bad) that may be hard to detect and respond accordingly. That solidifies our consistency, which will make a difference to our pupils.
  3. Extra adults who are given the chance to be involved in teaching will be empowered and the added job variety will lead to better job satisfaction. All empowered staff members [in any organisation], with high job satisfaction will do a better job, meaning more pupils will ultimately benefit because of their input. The opposite is true – if you’re not empowered and your work doesn’t satisfy you, you will do a poor job.

An extra adult in the classroom can assist the teacher with administrative tasks, co-management of behaviour and being involved in the teaching.


  • The extra adult can write up the agenda on the board at the beginning of the lesson so that you can focus on how the pupils are doing in the Do Now.
  • The extra adult can nominate pupils to be called based on their judgement of how well the pupils have been SLANTing.
  • The extra adult may bail you out when you’ve forgotten to bring something to class, either by fetching it or holding the fort momentarily. They might make last minute extra copies of resources.
  • The extra adult probably won’t hand things out or collect things in because pupils will be doing that. However, you may ask them in advance to bring to the lesson a class set of scissors and glue, for example.
  • The extra adult can enter data into your tracking spreadsheet while you’re helping a pupil, instead of the other way round.

Co-management of behaviour

  1. While you’re talking to the class, they will position themselves where they can keep an extra lookout for pupils who are not tracking or who do not have empty hands and swiftly move over to the pupil to correct them silently.
  2. You can ask them to interrupt a class discussion if there is a case for one pupil to publicly apologise to another pupil or to me. Take the view that pupils should get the message that both of you are on the same page in terms of 100% compliance and high expectations of behaviour. I’ll support him/her and the pupils will see that. That also benefits their interactions around the school.
  3. The extra adult can keep note of who is SLANTing 100% and therefore who deserves a SLANT merit at the end of the lesson. They can then enter the points into your school’s behaviour tracking system.
  4. If you issue a demerit or equivalent, they can add it/remember to add it/remind me to add it to whatever you’re using to keep track of demerits during the lesson (e.g. a clipboard, ClassDojo, the whiteboard, etc.).
  5. During a paired or group task, they can remind individual pupils to moderate the volume of their voices if they are louder than the volume you’ve asked for. You can stop the whole class if need be in those situations but they are another line of defence.

Involvement in teaching

  1. Whole class teaching moments
    • In your meetings together, discuss which parts of the lesson they will teach. In a whole-class situation, with notice and time to prepare one thing they could stand at the front and teach a segment.
    • They may run set pieces like the Orall Drill, Spelling Quiz or the plenary or they could go through answers or take questions.
    • Be VERY keen that pupils hear more maths dialogue between adults [because there’s untapped learning value in it] and you and the extra adult should both be initiating this. From your side, you can call on them for their advice or opinion on what’s being taught “Ms Richardson, what ways do you have of understanding what a factor is?” “How did you learn this at school?” “What would you say is the most important thing to remember here?”

      At other times, they can ‘interject’ or stop you before continuing too far to offer tips or to ask probing questions or to pretend that they doesn’t understand so that you explain it in a different way. They can think aloud so that pupils learn from those thought processes.
    • If a pupil answers a question incorrectly and, for whatever reason, there isn’t the time to delve into the misconception publicly, they can go over to the pupil and quietly help them understand.
    • If a pupil is dying to answer or ask a question and they’re not picked the extra adult can go over and find out what it is. If it’s irrelevant they should shut the conversation down but otherwise they should hear what the pupil has to say.
  2. When it’s time for pupils to work independently, in pairs or in small groups
    • Option 1 – They makes a beeline for the weakest pupils and supports them one by one, floating between them.
    • Option 2 – If the weakest can’t keep with the pace, then the extra adult can take the pupils to the back of the class and teach them
    • Option 3 – If they are so far behind then the extra adult might have to do some preparing of extra resources as well as teach them at their own pace
    • Option 4 – The most able pupils on any particular day can get their work checked and marked by the extra adult and they can move those pupils on to an extension activity, leaving you to work more with the middle and lower pupils.
    • When they’re working in pairs or groups this is a good time for the extra adult to move from table to table, listening in on the conversation and facilitating where necessary.

At the beginning of the year-when-I-did-a-better-job of working with City Year, I sent my assigned volunteer more or less the list above, describing how I wanted to work together. The awkward bit for me was that I asked her to to respond with what she wanted from me as the classroom teacher. I wasn’t sure what to expect but she helpfully told me what she needed in terms of support and preparation.

I’d like to think we made a formidable team. It was definitely one of my best year’s of teaching, being able to work closely with someone else.

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