Every educator in a teaching environment is bound to encounter a student or two who hates math. Reasons stem from its complexities with numbers and squiggles that give birth into formulas running across blackboards and often not fitting the allocated space. Some dread the need to commit these monstrosities to memory whereas others have no inkling on where or how to apply them to problems splashed across their work books.

To deliver effective mathematics education without causing his charges to run down the halls and scream in terror, a teacher needs to employ creative methods of teaching. Otherwise, learning processes imposed by archaic educational policies become a means to an end of completing the education cycle. Since the ability to learn evolves through the various age levels, the skill and know-how to deliver this task needs to be tailored to achieve maximum penetration. Younger students may benefit from visual representations to solve the mystery on the number of apples in Suzy’s safekeeping after a shopping trip to the store.

Adding to the ante is the infamous challenge to work out train arrival times based on given speeds and distances. By applying a range of techniques to solve the same problem, students learn the ability to look at it from various angles yet reaching similar goals. This then expands the mind to think out routes to solve life’s puzzles as part of their developmental growth.

Other than teaching the subject, professionals trained in mathematics education also gather statistics for the purpose of continual assessment. By observing how the teaching and comprehension of the subject matures through the generations, the importance of math in life becomes more apparent. Qualification in this expertise also allows the educator to branch into other career options. Research and spearheading educational policies are possible areas of advancement. Others may opt for a doctorate degree to instru

Are you one of those who are looking to make career as a mathematics teacher? If your answer is yes then there various options to become mathematics tutor. Either you can follow an education degree at the master’s or bachelor’s degree level and have your regular education training in math, or you may even earn a math degree at different levels and then have training with the necessary coursework. Nevertheless, if you are already a mathematics teacher and looking forward to advancing your career then selecting a degree program in mathematics can be the best option. These days many colleges and universities in the United States are offering mathematics education programs that may further help you improve your individual proficiency.

Generally, a degree program in mathematics education primarily focuses on math-specific education training along with the general education necessities that are necessary for every professional licensure. The degree programs can be broadly categorized into two sub-categories, mainly the bachelor’s and master’s degree. The bachelor’s degree in mathematics education focuses on a science prospectus along with math-focused tutor training. In addition to this, the bachelor’s degree program primarily includes learning of mathematics in different areas and provides mathematics major as a specialization. Apart from all this, the master’s degree program basically emphasizes on K-16 schools and methodology or the way students are educated in mathematics. The program can be very beneficial for you if you are a licensed teacher. Moreover, the coursework includes studies in math-centric topics and classroom administration.

If we carefully look at the employment prospects for mathematics education degree graduates, it actually seems to be very bright. Once you complete the program, you can make a career as an actuary. As an actuary, you may use your logical skills to calculate and manage risk for banking, financial services, and insurance industries. The other job profile you can look for are financial analyst and economic statisticians as well. Adding to this, in recent times a serious scarcity of math teachers exists has further created the growing demand for bright new mathematics tutors. Today as a graduate of the mathematics education degree program or being mathematics major, you can definitely pursue a great career in the education industry.

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The mathematics education in the whole world stands in bad need for reform. The education quality is getting worse. We expect our children to be less capable than us in mathematics due to the low quality mathematics education at the high school level. I do not blame the high school teachers and I do not think that it is their fault. This problem is due to policies and regulations which the teachers really have no hand in.

The policy making is overshadowed by the war between the advocates of traditional education and progressive education. For example the progressive educators in an attempt to improve the mathematics education they created a number of new curricula which were collectively known as New Math. This mathematics was created by university mathematicians. It was about sets, relations, and functions. The teachers were not yet prepared to teach this type of mathematics. This was because they were never given enough training on how to teach it. Besides, the teachers failed to see the importance of New Math. New Math went down quickly and failed within one decade. It left a disastrous legacy that made new proposals for major changes in school mathematics looked upon negatively and steered lots of criticism. This also made the battle between the two major parties of policy making intense.

If we look back at this experiment we see that the main reason behind this failure was because of policies and not because that the new created mathematics field was not useful or suitable. The idea was good but they failed on how to implement it. The implementation of New Math should have been gradual. It should have been accompanied by courses and workshops that teach the teachers the concepts of the subject, why it is important and how to teach it.

The good part about this experience is the coordination between university and high school. The university created New Math to be taught in school. We can learn from this experience that university can take an active role in high school education. After all students study mathematics in school in order to be able to go to university and be successful in engineering, science, or mathematics. If the school student is not well trained in the mathematics in school they will become poor university students and may drop out of university.

A good policy that the education managers could take to improve school mathematics education is to ask universities to support schools in mathematics education. I am not saying that the mathematics departments of all universities should get involved. First of all the mathematics departments’ teaching staff should vote whether they want to get involved in school education or not. Then the departments that vote for this project should ask several members of staff to be committed to it. The university usually approaches industry to solve some of their problems. They can approach schools the same way. They should thing of the school education as the industry of producing successful students which they need at university.

The first problem that will face the mathematics department is that the school teachers may feel threatened by the university staff and feel that they will be replaced. This is why the school teachers should be assured that the prime goal of the university staff is to improve them as teachers and help them do their job better.

The university can help schools in many different ways. For example they can run summer classes for teachers. These classes should go into the depth of the conceptual understanding of the high school mathematics subjects. In addition the classes should teach how the mathematics can be reflected into our real world. It should emphasize how to solve real life problems with mathematics.

A Paradigm shift is a major change from one way of thinking to another. A revolution. A metamorphosis driven by agents of change. Thomas Kuhn said “awareness is prerequisite to all acceptable changes of theory.” It would seem that the necessary awareness already exists when report after report shows the sorry state of mathematics education in this country. The recent release of Harvard’s latest report shows that the US ranks 31st of 56 countries, and only 6% of our high school students take higher level math courses. Another statistic which actually explains the other two is the fact that the failure rate of 1st year Algebra in the country is 50%, and this statistic has stayed consistent of at least four decades. How much more awareness is needed?

A major paradigm shift in something as complicated as our education system is certainly not to be taken lightly. We must first be certain that every possible attempt at positive change has been tried and shown to be a failure. Over the years, there have been at least six major philosophical changes. See my article “The Current State of Mathematics Education In This Country–Caution! You May Not Want To Know This” for a detailed explanation of those philosophical changes. That article also describes the various changes in both textbook series and educational techniques that have been tried over the past several decades. A quick look at No Child Left Behind results will show that there has been no benefit to mathematics education. An extended look at the long-term of effects of NCLB will show that, as with “New Math,” the state of mathematics education has actually made a step backward.

This simply can not be allowed to continue. We are no longer able to compete in a global market. The long-term effects of the Algebra failure rate on both society and the individual student are so harmful that it seems criminal for us to allow either to continue. And, yet, while we all agree that the consequences are bad, no one seems to be trying very hard to find solutions. The educational system for mathematics is quite literally being allowed to flounder. School districts are simply rotating though the same techniques that have failed in the past.

So where do we look for solutions to the problems of mathematics education? I believe that the wisest approach would be to look at what has been successful in the field of education and duplicate that.

It seems that nothing in the field of mathematics education has been successful, but, just the opposite is true for reading and writing education. Our very young children enter school eager for the challenge of learning to read and write, and they seem to possess an ingrained sense that they have the ability to learn. They never doubt their ability to learn. Teachers are able to hit the ground running with these students. These children with their enthusiasm, persistence, and confidence in their own abilities stay successful for many years.

With this in mind, the first obvious question is why do our children excel in reading and writing? Answer? Societal expectation. There has always been a “given assumption” or “generalized understanding” that parents–even the extended family unit–have a role to play in preparing pre-school aged children to enter elementary school ready to read and write. Every mother, father, sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin, grandmother, grandfather, and even neighbors take an active interest and role as babies learn to make sounds, say words, crawl, walk, and talk. Babies are incredibly persistent at each of these very difficult tasks because every person in their small universe is quite literally cheering them on. We encourage their every attempt and we reinforce their successes at the same time that we encourage them to “try again” when they fall down. The word “failure” is non-existent at this stage of their little lives.

As the child grows the family unit plays an equal role in language development. Everyone reads to the child and encourages new vocabulary words and correct grammar begins to be evident; and all the while the child is surrounded with reinforcement and encouragement. In some homes, children actually start to read before they enter school. In most homes the necessary preparatory skills for reading are in place for the day school starts. The same has been happening with writings skills. Children are prepared with the alphabet, letter sounds, and letter shapes. They are ready to go to school to learn to read and write. They are filled with excitement. We have filled our children with so much encouragement and reinforcement that they never doubt their own ability to learn to read and write. They know they can learn because we taught them so.

Are the same things happening for mathematics? NO! At most, parents work with their children on counting without realizing that counting is actually a language skill not a math skill. Learning to say “one, two, three, four, five” is the same skill as learning to say “a, b, c, d, e.” Should we be angry with parents for not doing with math what they so wonderfully accomplish with reading and writing. Again, NO! There is no societal expectation for parents to work with anything math related.

The next obvious question then becomes why not? Why does society think that not having parents lay the foundation for math success is desirable? The blame for this can be placed squarely on Jean Piaget (1896-1980). Piaget was a biologist who studied molluscs, but eventually moved into the study of childhood development. He divided a child’s cognitive development into stages based on age. His proclamations that preschool children were capable of learning language and that children were not capable of abstract thought until age 11 have driven the course of education since the early 1970′s. Parents work with preschool children on language because Piaget said they should. And nothing is done with abstract mathematics until almost the teen years because of Piaget. Over the years, we have come to learn that many of his original assumptions were incorrect and that much of his research was flawed. And yet we hang onto those “proclamations” as if they were handed down from God himself. Piaget was wrong! And because of this, the field of mathematics education has been suffering and our children have been failing.

Is it possible for us to change this current state of affairs? I tend to be an optimist and look at things from a positive viewpoint, so, yes, I believed this can be changed. But the change needs to start immediately and it quite literally needs to involve everyone in this society. It will require government support, a great deal of financial investment, and many years to complete.

There are two pieces of research data which do give us hope. The first research result we have known for over 50 years: babies are actually born with an innate number sense the same way they are born with an innate language sense. This doesn’t mean that babies are born knowing how to count any more than they know how to speak English. But they are able from birth to distinguish between one, two, and many. This is a survival issue. And their number sense is active during the preschool years.

The other significant piece of research has come from the brain studies being conducted now that we have technology allowing us to actually study how the brain learns. Eric Jensen has been one of the most recognized names in the area of interpreting brain research data and then applying that information into useful form for the classroom. David Sousa’s book “How the Brain Learns Mathematics” and John Medina’s books “brain rules” and “brain rules for BABY” should become required reading for parents. Why? Because we have learned that the critical or primary period for learning logic and establishing the foundation for arithmetic is–are you sitting down?–ages 1 to 4! Is it any wonder that our children are failing mathematics in large numbers when we in education are totally missing the foundation forming years?

So many wasted years and so many wasted minds. Remember the commercial that said “the mind is a terrible thing to waste?” Yet, for several decades now, we have done exactly that. In trying to find the solution for our Algebra mess, we have repeated philosophy mistakes, we have thrown out textbooks by the millions (billions?), and in the end, we always blame teachers. No Child Left Behind is closing schools and running our best teachers out of the profession. All for the wrong reasons. We have been looking in the wrong places and at the wrong things.

The solution to the problems with mathematics education is not in WHAT we do. It is WHEN we do it.