Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas. -Albert Einstein
Mathematics has been described a number of ways: a science dealing with logic, shape, quantity, and arrangement; the science of numbers and their operations, combinations, generalizations, and abstracts of space configurations and their structures; and an interdisciplinary language and tool. But regardless of how it is defined, mathematics has always been an important component of learning and doing, and has long been one of the basics of our formal education system.
Whether teaching math at the earliest levels or to advanced students, those who want to become mathematics educators must meet a number of requirements, all of which are designed to ensure they are proficient in mathematics and have the skills to effectively impart their knowledge to students.
Math Teacher Preparation Program Requirements
To be able to successfully educate students in mathematics, teachers must have a solid background in the mathematics discipline, and in education. Both of these are obtained through the completion of a bachelor’s or master’s degree in mathematics education.
Although these programs may terminate with a number of different bachelor’s or master’s level credentials (Bachelor of Science in Mathematics Education, Bachelor of Science in Education with a concentration in mathematics, Master of Education (MEd), Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Mathematics, etc.), the general content is very similar.
State education departments almost always have a number of teacher preparation programs for prospective mathematics teachers that consist of the degree component (subject matter preparation), whether undergraduate or graduate, as well as pedagogy courses and a student teaching experience, all of which fulfill the requirements needed to achieve an educator license/certification.
Core course requirements in a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education, for example, typically include:
- Calculus (I, II, II)
- Linear Algebra/Matrices
- Logic and Set Theory
- Discrete Mathematics
- Modern Algebra
- Modern Geometry
Professional education requirements in a bachelor’s degree often include courses such as:
- Introduction to Education
- Schools and Our Society
- Human Development and Learning
- Assessment in Education
- Exceptional Learners in Inclusive Classrooms
- Teaching Mathematics in the Secondary School
- Classroom Organization and Management
Course requirements in a master’s degree in mathematics education often include:
- Numbers and Mathematical Thinking
- Statistics and Probability
- Understanding and Teaching Algebra
- Calculus Concepts and Applications
- Curriculum Development and Assessment in Mathematics and Science
- Educational Research in Mathematics and Science
Although every state has its own set of requirements regarding examinations for prospective teachers, candidates can expect to complete general assessment examinations, such as the PRAXIS Core Academic Skills for Educators or the PRAXIS Pre-Professional Skills Test (reading, writing, mathematics), and/or content examinations, such as the PRAXIS Mathematics: Content Knowledge Examination or PRAXIS Middle School Mathematics.
Although not as widely used, some states accept the National Evaluation Series (NES) examination for state certification.
A number of states, such as California and Florida, have their own examinations, while some states, such as Colorado, use both specialized state examinations, as well as national examinations to assess prospective teachers.
Licensing requirements vary by state, but prospective teachers can expect to complete a number of steps upon completing all preparatory steps to becoming a teacher. The licensing/certification process generally includes the completion of an application (and paying related application and licensing fees), as well as providing the state board of education with all applicable documentation of the completion of a teacher preparatory program and required examinations.
Beyond that, applicants must often undergo a thorough background and criminal investigation, which includes FBI fingerprinting.
Continuing Education Requirements
Mathematics teachers must remain current with the latest developments and advancements in the discipline, particularly with the widespread implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Therefore, continuing professional education, whether through the school district or as an individual component, is required to renew a teacher’s license.
Continuing professional education in some states, such as Iowa and Kentucky, is part and parcel of achieving a master’s degree, a requirement for maintaining a teacher’s license. Continuing education is often offered as seminars and coursework through the school or school district, while other continuing education opportunities are gained through membership in a professional association, the completion of college-level coursework, or attendance to professional conferences and seminars.
The following national mathematics associations offer continuing education opportunities: