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Math Teacher

math teacher helping student at blackboard

A math teacher could...


Teach students how to graph and find meaning in data. Graph of US gasoline prices by month in 2004 Use games and toys to teach a child arithmetic. child playing with toy cash register and coins
Use geometry and proofs to develop logical thinking. Drawing of a series of equilateral triangles Use examples from nature, like shells, to show students that math is all around them. conch shell
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Key Facts & Information

Overview Math teachers love mathematics and understand it well, but much more than that, they enjoy sharing their enthusiasm for the language of numbers with students. They use a variety of tools and techniques to help students grasp abstract concepts and show them that math describes the world around them. By helping students conquer fears and anxieties about math, teachers can open up many science and technology career possibilities for students. Teachers make a difference that lasts a lifetime!
Key Requirements Enjoy working with children and be creative, patient, organized, good-humored, observant, sensitive to cultural differences, and have excellent communication skills with children, their parents, and other teachers.
Minimum Degree Bachelor's degree
Subjects to Study in High School Physics, geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus, calculus, English; if available, computer science, statistics, child development, foreign language
Median Salary
Math Teacher
  $54,270
US Mean Annual Wage
  $45,230
Min Wage
  $15,080
$0
$10,000
$20,000
$30,000
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Projected Job Growth (2010-2020) More Slowly than Average (3% to 6%) In Demand!
Interview Meet a finalist for California's 2009 Teacher of the Year, Alex Kajitani, "The Rapping Mathematician," who created rap songs such as "The Number Line Dance" and "The Itty Bitty Dot" to help students develop an interest in math and to remember mathematical operations.
Related Occupations
  • Health educators
  • Graduate teaching assistants
  • Vocational education teachers, postsecondary
  • Elementary school teachers, except special education
  • Instructional coordinators
  • Teacher assistants
Source: O*Net

Training, Other Qualifications

The traditional route to becoming a public school teacher involves completing a bachelor's degree from a teacher education program and then obtaining a license. However, most states now offer alternative routes to licensure for those who have a college degree in other fields. Private school teachers do not have to be licensed, but still need a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's degree may not be needed by preschool teachers and vocational education teachers, who need experience in their field rather than a specific degree.

Education and Training

Traditional education programs for kindergarten and elementary school teachers include courses designed specifically for those preparing to teach. These courses include mathematics, physical science, social science, music, art, and literature, as well as prescribed professional education courses, such as philosophy of education, psychology of learning, and teaching methods. Aspiring secondary school teachers most often major in the subject they plan to teach while also taking a program of study in teacher preparation. Many 4-year colleges require students to wait until their sophomore year before applying for admission to teacher education programs. To maintain their accreditation, teacher education programs are now required to include classes in the use of computers and other technologies. Most programs require students to perform a student-teaching internship. Teacher education programs are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council. Graduation from an accredited program is not necessary to become a teacher, but it may make fulfilling licensure requirements easier.

Many States now offer professional development schools, which are partnerships between universities and elementary or secondary schools. Professional development schools merge theory with practice and allow the student to experience a year of teaching firsthand, under professional guidance. Students enter these 1-year programs after completion of their bachelor’s degree.

Licensure and certification. All 50 states and the District of Columbia require public school teachers to be licensed. Licensure is not required for teachers in most private schools. Usually licensure is granted by the State Board of Education or a licensure advisory committee. Teachers may be licensed to teach the early childhood grades (usually preschool through grade 3); the elementary grades (grades 1 through 6 or 8); the middle grades (grades 5 through 8); a secondary-education subject area (usually grades 7 through 12); or a special subject, such as reading or music (usually grades kindergarten through 12).

Other Qualifications

In addition to being knowledgeable about the subjects they teach, teachers must have the ability to communicate, inspire trust and confidence, and motivate students, as well as understand the students’ educational and emotional needs. Teachers must be able to recognize and respond to individual and cultural differences in students and employ different teaching methods that will result in higher student achievement. They should be organized, dependable, patient, and creative. Teachers also must be able to work cooperatively and communicate effectively with other teachers, support staff, parents, and members of the community. Private schools associated with religious institutions also desire candidates who share the values that are important to the institution.

Nature of the Work

Watch this video about aerospace technicians
In this video,
meet an award-winning math teacher, Kelvin Chun, who uses kites, balloons, and magic to teach math and physics.

Teachers play an important role in fostering the intellectual and social development of children during their formative years. The education that teachers impart plays a key role in determining the future prospects of their students. Whether in preschools or high schools or in private or public schools, teachers provide the tools and the environment for their students to develop into responsible adults.

Teachers act as facilitators or coaches, using classroom presentations or individual instruction to help students learn and apply concepts in a subject, such as mathematics. They plan, evaluate, and assign lessons; prepare, administer, and grade tests; listen to oral presentations; and maintain classroom discipline. Teachers observe and evaluate a student's performance and potential and increasingly are asked to use new assessment methods. Teachers also grade papers, prepare report cards, and meet with parents and school staff to discuss a student’s academic progress or personal problems.

Many math teachers use a “hands-on” approach that uses "props" or "manipulatives" to help children understand abstract concepts, solve problems, and develop critical thought processes. For example, they teach the concepts of numbers or of addition and subtraction by playing board games. As the children get older, teachers use more sophisticated materials, such as science apparatus, cameras, or computers. They also encourage collaboration in solving problems by having students work in groups to discuss and solve problems together. To be prepared for success later in life, students must be able to interact with others, adapt to new technology, and think through problems logically.

Middle school teachers and secondary school teachers help students delve more deeply into subjects introduced in elementary school and expose them to more information about the world. Middle and secondary school teachers specialize in a specific subject, such as mathematics.

In addition to conducting classroom activities, teachers oversee study halls and homerooms, supervise extracurricular activities, and accompany students on field trips. They may identify students with physical or mental problems and refer the students to the proper authorities. Secondary school teachers occasionally assist students in choosing courses, colleges, and careers. Teachers also participate in education conferences and workshops.

Computers play an integral role in the education teachers provide. Resources such as educational software and the Internet expose students to a vast range of experiences and promote interactive learning. Students also use the Internet for individual research projects and to gather information. Computers are used in other classroom activities as well, from solving math problems to learning English as a second language. Teachers also may use computers to record grades and perform other administrative and clerical duties. They must continually update their skills so that they can instruct and use the latest technology in the classroom.

Teachers often work with students from varied ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds. With growing minority populations in most parts of the country, it is important for teachers to work effectively with a diverse student population. Accordingly, some schools offer training to help teachers enhance their awareness and understanding of different cultures. Teachers may also include multicultural programming in their lesson plans, to address the needs of all students, regardless of their cultural background.

In recent years, site-based management, which allows teachers and parents to participate actively in management decisions regarding school operations, has gained popularity. In many schools, teachers are increasingly involved in making decisions regarding the budget, personnel, textbooks, curriculum design, and teaching methods.

Work Environment

Seeing students develop new skills and gain an appreciation of knowledge and learning can be very rewarding. However, teaching may be frustrating when one is dealing with unmotivated or disrespectful students. Occasionally, teachers must cope with unruly behavior and violence in the schools. Teachers may experience stress in dealing with large classes, heavy workloads, or old schools that are run down and lack many modern amenities. Accountability standards also may increase stress levels, with teachers expected to produce students who are able to exhibit satisfactory performance on standardized tests in core subjects. Many teachers, particularly in public schools, are also frustrated by the lack of control they have over what they are required to teach.

Teachers in private schools generally enjoy smaller class sizes and more control over establishing the curriculum and setting standards for performance and discipline. Their students also tend to be more motivated, since private schools can be selective in their admissions processes.

Teachers are sometimes isolated from their colleagues because they work alone in a classroom of students. However, some schools allow teachers to work in teams and with mentors to enhance their professional development.

Including school duties performed outside the classroom, many teachers work more than 40 hours a week. Part-time schedules are more common among preschool and kindergarten teachers. Although most school districts have gone to all-day kindergartens, some kindergarten teachers still teach two kindergarten classes a day. Most teachers work the traditional 10-month school year with a 2-month vacation during the summer. During the vacation break, those on the 10-month schedule may teach in summer sessions, take other jobs, travel, or pursue personal interests. Many enroll in college courses or workshops to continue their education. Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 8 weeks, are on vacation for 1 week, and have a 5-week midwinter break. Preschool teachers working in day care settings often work year round.

Most states have tenure laws that prevent public school teachers from being fired without just cause and due process. Teachers may obtain tenure after they have satisfactorily completed a probationary period of teaching, normally 3 years. Tenure does not absolutely guarantee a job, but it does provide some security.

On the Job

  • Establish and enforce rules for behavior and procedures for maintaining order among students.
  • Instruct through lectures, discussions, and demonstrations in one or more subjects, such as English, mathematics, or social studies.
  • Establish clear objectives for all lessons, units, and projects and communicate those objectives to students.
  • Prepare, administer, and grade tests and assignments to evaluate students´ progress.
  • Prepare materials and classrooms for class activities.
  • Adapt teaching methods and instructional materials to meet students´ varying needs and interests.
  • Maintain accurate and complete student records as required by laws, district policies, and administrative regulations.
  • Assign and grade class work and homework.
  • Observe and evaluate students´ performance, behavior, social development, and physical health.
  • Enforce all administration policies and rules governing students.
  • Plan and conduct activities for a balanced program of instruction, demonstration, and work time that provides students with opportunities to observe, question, and investigate.
  • Prepare students for later grades by encouraging them to explore learning opportunities and to persevere with challenging tasks.
  • Guide and counsel students with adjustment or academic problems, or special academic interests.
  • Instruct and monitor students in the use of equipment and materials to prevent injuries and damage.
  • Prepare for assigned classes and show written evidence of preparation upon request of immediate supervisors.
  • Use computers, audio-visual aids, and other equipment and materials to supplement presentations.
  • Meet with parents and guardians to discuss their children´s progress and to determine priorities for their children and their resource needs.
  • Confer with parents or guardians, other teachers, counselors, and administrators to resolve students´ behavioral and academic problems.
  • Prepare objectives and outlines for courses of study, following curriculum guidelines or requirements of states and schools.
  • Meet with other professionals to discuss individual students´ needs and progress.
  • Prepare and implement remedial programs for students requiring extra help.
  • Attend professional meetings, educational conferences, and teacher training workshops to maintain and improve professional competence.
  • Confer with other staff members to plan and schedule lessons promoting learning, following approved curricula.
  • Collaborate with other teachers and administrators in the development, evaluation, and revision of secondary school programs.
  • Prepare reports on students and activities as required by administration.
  • Select, store, order, issue, and inventory classroom equipment, materials, and supplies.
  • Plan and supervise class projects, field trips, visits by guest speakers, or other experiential activities, and guide students in learning from those activities.
  • Administer standardized ability and achievement tests and interpret results to determine students´ strengths and areas of need.
  • Sponsor extracurricular activities such as clubs, student organizations, and academic contests.
  • Attend staff meetings and serve on committees, as required.
  • Perform administrative duties such as assisting in school libraries, hall and cafeteria monitoring, and bus loading and unloading.
  • Provide disabled students with assistive devices, supportive technology, and assistance accessing facilities such as restrooms.

Source: BLS

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