Making sure math teachers are strong in math: The FSU-Teach approach

One of the commenters on yesterday’s Gradebook post on math and science education complained that many math teachers in Florida’s secondary schools “do not even have a mathematical mind.”  This is a broad problem recently documented by researchers at Michigan State University in an argument published in Science.

Here is part of the solution:  a content-rich college major for prospective math teachers devised by math professors.  That is what we have here at FSU in the university’s FSU-Teach program for the recruiting and education of math and science teachers.  The content requirements include several 4000-level courses as well as a core that includes differential equations and linear algebra.  You can see the whole thing here.

No student without “a mathematical mind” could survive the program.

That leaves the other unsolved problem cited by the Gradebook commenters – paying strong math and science students enough to make teaching worth their while.


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1 Response to Making sure math teachers are strong in math: The FSU-Teach approach

  1. Doc Carr says:

    No initiative addressing teacher preparation can have any effect at all for the better part of a decade. You can’t magically create new teachers. It takes at least 4 years to get them through college, and another 4 years to get their first students through high school. Even then they will not make up a majority of all math teachers.

    You also miss two important points:

    1) The Michigan State study was specifically about middle school math, an area that I personally believe (based on conversations with many students at a CC) is at the center of the math education problem in Florida. It is followed closely by K-5, based on the large fraction of students who cannot do 5th grade math after graduating from HS. I consider it highly unlikely that FSUTeach (and UFTeach) will produce very many middle school math teachers.

    What is the production (and attrition) rate from FSUTeach?
    How does its supply compare to the demand, statewide?
    What is the placement history between HS and middle school?

    That study concerned middle grades math certification requirements like those here in Florida. They read as follows (emphasis added): “(2) Plan Two. A bachelor’s or higher degree with eighteen (18) semester hours in mathematics to include credit in the areas specified below:
    (a) Calculus, precalculus, OR trigonometry,
    (b) Geometry, and
    (c) Probability or statistics.”

    Despite those lame requirements (all of which can be met at a community college), I have been told of one local school where 6th grade math is taught by the one available teacher who is least afraid of math. None of the teachers available is certified at that level.

    2) Consider the job opportunities that are listed on the FSUTeach Mathematics advising page:

    “Employment Information
    Representative Job Titles Related to this Major: Middle school or high school teacher of mathematics, mathematician, research analyst.
    Representative Employers: Public and private schools, research and engineering firms, government agency.”

    The salaries and stress level of those competing careers was one of the major problems in 9-12 math education that was specifically raised in the comments you posted.

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