Teachers shape the future, so it’s no wonder so many math enthusiasts feel a calling to be an educator. To become a math teacher, you must study both college-level mathematics and teacher preparation coursework. While math teachers typically begin with a bachelor’s degree, you can also earn a graduate degree to change careers, improve your skills or earn a pay raise.
Learning to Teach
Even the best teacher doesn’t start off knowing everything about how to manage a classroom. You may have natural skills when it comes to sharing your knowledge about a variety of subjects, but these abilities can only take you so far. You need a thorough understanding of pedagogical methods and approaches, not to mention plenty of practice, to develop the skills to design instructional materials and teach students of varying levels of ability. Math teachers learn to teach by completing college coursework in education or teacher preparation.
Most colleges separate programs in education by grade level. Math education degree programs are most commonly offered in high school or secondary school education, but you might also have the option to complete teacher preparation coursework at the middle school, elementary school and early childhood education levels.
Education coursework typically covers every aspect of the teaching experience, from creating lesson plans to grading assignments and from managing a classroom to integrating technology into your students’ education. Many math education degree programs include classes such as Learning and Instruction, Instructional Technology, Inclusive Education, Literacy and Language Teaching and Adolescent Development. In courses such as Classroom and Conflict Management, Theory and Practice of Effective Teaching and Assessment and Evaluation, you will develop the practical skills you need to succeed as a teacher.
One of the most important components of a teacher preparation program is hands-on experience. Undergraduate degrees in education typically require a semester-long student-teaching experience under the supervision of a licensed teacher.
Math Classes for Educators
You might not be teaching college-level coursework – or you may, if you are a high school teacher teaching Advanced Placement (AP) classes. However, you still need to master college-level math. A mathematics education degree program might not include quite as many advanced math courses as a general mathematics curriculum, but students will still take plenty of math courses. For example, math education programs often include numerous classes in calculus. You might also take coursework in linear algebra, modern algebra, probability theory, mathematical statistics, number theory, geometry, real and complex analysis and classical laboratory physics.
Aspiring math teachers also take specialized coursework in strategies for teaching math. For example, you might take a class on the history of the field of mathematics. More practical coursework focuses on teaching mathematics in the middle school and high school grades, and some programs include specialized courses devoted to teaching individual branches of math, such as algebra.
One factor that will affect the courses you take is the structure of your degree program. A math education major might take fewer classes in general and advanced math than a student who is double-majoring in both mathematics and education.
Why Earn a Master’s Degree to Teach
Most teachers at the elementary school, middle school and high school level have a bachelor’s degree, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, there are a number of circumstances in which a graduate degree can prove useful.
A master’s degree program that is geared toward non-teachers can help you become an educator, no matter what your educational background is. These alternate certification programs allow students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject to complete the teacher preparation coursework required for licensure in just two years.
Established teachers, too, can benefit from graduate school. Earning your master’s degree in math education or another education subject can earn you a salary bump of thousands of dollars per year. In fact, teachers with a master’s degree make, on average, 28 percent more than those without a graduate degree at the elementary and middle school grade levels and 24 percent more at the high school level, the BLS reported. Of course, it isn’t all about the money. Educators who go back to school genuinely want to improve and expand their skills in the classroom and beyond, and some studies suggest that their students benefit from having more educated instructors.
Certain states grant teaching licenses to candidates with a bachelor’s degree but require teachers to earn a graduate degree so they can maintain their certification, the BLS reported.