Math teachers answer the age-old question, “Why do I have to learn algebra?” with energy and enthusiasm. A teacher who specializes in mathematics-arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus-generally teaches at the middle school or secondary level. He or she has the ability to instill in students an appreciation for the elegance and symmetry of mathematical concepts, while staying on top of classroom management, curriculum planning, student progress tracking, and all the other duties that teaching entails.
The traditional path toward becoming a math teacher in the public schools requires a bachelor’s degree in education (BSE) and the completion of 24 to 36 hours (or more, in some states) of college courses in mathematics. Alternative licensure programs, some designed particularly as incentives for math teachers, offer provisional teaching licenses to bachelor’s degree holders in particular subjects while they complete education courses outside school hours. An increasing number of school systems encourage their math teachers to work toward a master’s degree, but this is not currently a requirement. As an exception to the rule, some private schools do not require their teachers to have a bachelor’s degree, but it is preferred.
Student teachers practice teaching for one semester under the supervision of a certified and experienced teacher. They must qualify for a teaching license to ensure that certain standards of excellence are met. Licenses are granted by the respective boards and must be renewed annually.
Various teacher-training programs are accredited by The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. While graduation from an accredited program is not mandatory, it certainly makes it easier for teachers to fulfill licensure requirements
Math teachers instruct students from around age 11 to 18. Some of their common professional duties, in addition to presenting mathematical concepts, include:
Anyone interested in pursuing a teaching career must be patient, motivated, organized, dependable and able to cope with stress. Math teachers, in particular, must have a firm grasp of classroom management since mathematical concepts build progressively and students once left behind will find it difficult to catch up.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, about 2.15 million people in the U.S. held positions as middle and secondary school teachers in 2008, and job opportunities are expected to grow about as fast as average for all occupations. Employment opportunities will vary, however, depending on the locality, subject and grade level.
A math teacher’s salary will vary widely depending on the school’s location and the experience level of the teacher. In 2008, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual salary of teachers in grades K-12 was $49,090.