Collision course: Rising demand for upper level high school math courses and decreasing supply of new Math 6-12 teachers

The number of Florida high school students who enroll in calculus courses is rising, and that trend – which will improve the preparation of students for careers like computer science and engineering – may accelerate in a few years.

But the increasing demand for upper level high school math courses like calculus is on a collision course with the rapid decline in the number of new teachers certified to teach such courses.

As shown in the top figure below, the number of calculus enrollments in Florida’s public high schools continued to increase last year (see below).  Even more striking was this spring’s surge in the number of middle school students passing the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam (middle figure).  All of those middle school Algebra 1 passers should be capable of taking calculus in high school – and they will be doing so in the next three years.

Meanwhile, the number of teaching candidates taking the exam for Math 6-12 certification – the certification necessary to teach any math course above Geometry – has dropped 25% since 2013.  The number of first-time exam takers passing the test has dropped 30% in the same time period (bottom figure).

These dueling trends can’t continue forever.  Eventually, the decreasing number of new math teachers has to be reversed  – or else the shortage of math teachers will place limits on the number of students that high schools can allow to take precalculus and calculus courses.

The calculus enrollments shown below are those in the school districts.  They do not include lab schools or Florida Virtual School.

As always, these data are available on the remarkable Florida Department of Education web site.




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