# Interview Questions for Math Teachers

Interviews are a bit odd and may not work all that well. But, every teacher is going to find themselves in the position of an interviewer or interviewee at some point in their career. Regardless of your role, it is worth taking the time to think about what information you want to learn or communicate during this process.

Before we get to the questions, it is important to think about restrictions. My experience has been that interviews are short, really short. Often, they are scheduled for just 30 minutes, but by the time everyone arrives, finishes the small talk, and actually get to interviewing, there are only 15 to 20 minutes. So, let's limit ourselves to 5 questions. And, let's order the questions with the most crucial ones first. That way if time runs low, you have collected the most important information.^{[2]}It is also important to note that, as the interviewer, there are certain questions you are not allowed to ask. Some of them are straight forward: don't ask how much money a candidate has. Others are less intuitive. Even if it is just polite small talk, you cannot ask a candidate if they have children. The assumption is that any question you ask will be used to determine whether an applicant is hired, so you cannot ask about protected traits, beliefs, et cetera.

Let's get to the questions:

**If I visited your classroom for a few minutes every day of the school year, what would I notice? **

Most teaching interviews involve a sample lesson, but this only gives a small window into a teacher's classroom. I want to know the routines and practices that teachers use and build on throughout the year. Do you use number talks once a week? Do you build students' understanding of proof through structured discussions and writing? This questions gets at what a teacher believes is most important for teaching mathematics, but, by asking what you will notice in the classroom, you force the applicant to describe actions and practices not just beliefs.

#### What is the ideal curriculum for your classroom? How would you use it? And, when you need activities outside of its scope, what resources would you draw from?

Curricula are very powerful in transforming teachers' actions and lessons. I want to know what type of curriculum an applicant prefers because that suggest a great deal about their beliefs. Most, if not all, teachers draw from resources outside of their curriculum. So, I also want to hear that a teacher knows where to find strong tasks.

#### How do we help students develop a positive mindset about mathematics, particularly problem solving?

Regardless of the course or grade level, I want every math teacher working to strengthen our students' mindsets about mathematics. This does not happen by magic. It takes thought and reflection. I want to hear a candidate connect mindset to different aspects of their teaching, especially feedback.

**How do you assess students? What types of feedback do you provide?**

Feedback and assessment are incredibly powerful aspects of teachers' practices that impact student learning and confidence. I want any potential candidate to have a well-articulated approach to assessing and providing feedback to students. I also want to hear examples of formative assessment and how those assessments are used to guide future lessons and work.

**[Insert Large Scale Content Specific Question Here]?**

The details of this question depend on the position the teacher is applying for, but it should give the teacher the opportunity to demonstrate their pedagogical content knowledge (see below) for a big conceptual idea that students in their courses will be wrestling with. I want to see that this candidate knows more than just how to "do the math" covered in a course. I want to hear that they know how to help students make sense of big ideas they will be teaching.

From Ball et al. - (2008) - "*Content Knowledge for Teaching : What Makes It Special?*"

You might, for example, ask a fifth or sixth grade teacher the following: "5th and 6th grade students spend a significant amount of time studying operations involving fractions and decimals. Still, many find story problems that require these ideas challenging. How do help students become better solvers of story problems involving operations with fractions and decimals?"

#### Final Thoughts

Those are my go-to interview questions. But, like many, I adjust the questions based on how a candidate responds. When I am the one being interviewed, I am thinking about these questions too. I want to be sure to communicate my beliefs about assessment, curriculum, mindset and feedback even if I am not asked directly.

What questions do you like to ask or be asked? I asked this question on twitter and was reminded of some wonderful questions including:

@MathFireworks Can you give an example of a student who struggled during class and how you engaged with them mathematically?

— Anna Blinstein (@Borschtwithanna) April 20, 2017

Sam Shah

May 1, 2017@ 8:34 pmThanks for these! They are great! I justs sent them to our department chair. We were doing some hiring this year and so I brainstormed questions that were important/specific to our department needs and to what I personally was looking for. I'll copy my questions down below in case they are useful to you or anyone else hiring!

What is your process for creating/designing a new lesson on a curricular topic (e.g. completing the square, anti-derivatives, etc.). What do you do? What do you think about? You can think of a specific lesson if you want, if it makes this easier! (I know we don’t often have the opportunity to think about the things we have come to do naturally!)

Can you talk about a lesson that you designed and taught recently that you were super excited about? Did it go well? Did it flop? How do you know?

We like to collaborate in our department -- though it admittedly isn’t easy because of our busy schedules. Have you had the opportunity to collaborate in a meaningful way in your career? Can you talk about how that went? If not, what would be the ideal collaboration for you?

As a department, in the Upper School, we’re moving away from traditional textbooks and more into student discovery and investigation to uncover ideas/concepts. This means that there is more of an onus on teachers to develop curricula -- which can be a lot of work, but it is exciting work. Have you ever had the opportunity to develop parts of a curriculum (or an entire curriculum)? Tell me about that? If not, what are your thoughts about teachers designing their own curricula?

What are ways you’ve experimented in your classroom -- whether they worked out or not?

Many in our department have kids work in groups. Do you use groups in your teaching? If so, how do you use them? If not, how do kids interact with each other in your classroom?

What is something you’ve been consciously working (with regards to your teaching) in your own classes?

What are some things you think students would say about you? Why?

I’m personally trying to become more intentional about a lot of different things that go on in my classroom. Can you think about ways you’re intentional in your practice? Things you’re hyperconscious of either when planning or executing a lesson?

This is just out of curiosity -- there is no right answer! In the math department, different teachers feel differently about real world mathematics and applications (though we all recognize that students really appreciate seeing mathematics become “real” to them). What are your thoughts about pure mathematical work versus real world mathematical work?