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Many people grow up with the dream of becoming a teacher. Once they graduate high school, it is time to enter a four-year university to learn how to become a teacher and earn a degree. There are many majors relating to the teaching field, especially in math and the sciences. All these majors can make it difficult for you to choose the best major for employment as a high school math teacher. Here is the path you can take to get the education you need if you wish to become a high school math teacher.
Teaching High School Math
Being a high school math teacher requires you to understand many disciplines offered within the math curriculum. Some of these disciplines include:
You may also have to teach basic math or business math classes to students at all high school grade levels who struggle with math.
You can show expertise in one of these math subjects, but it is better to understand many math subjects as a high school math teacher. When getting a teaching degree with a concentration in mathematics, you can choose to take education classes related to the age group you will teach. For example, if you are in the secondary education degree program, you will focus on teaching students from grades 7 to 12.
College Math Majors
There are several degree fields associated with mathematics. You can major in mathematics or statistics, which strictly focus on mathematical concepts. These majors are for those who want to become mathematicians or go on to graduate school to continue their education in mathematics. Other degree fields where you will need an extensive education in mathematics include:
- computer science
Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science
If you choose to major in mathematics, you can decide if you want a Bachelor of Arts degree or a Bachelor of Science degree. There is no difference between the B.A. and B.S. degrees for the required coursework in mathematics. The only difference is in the other required coursework. You should check the details of your program to determine the specific coursework you will have to take to get a B.A. or B.S. degree in mathematics at the college or university you plan to attend.
A B.A. in mathematics from most colleges and universities requires you to demonstrate the equivalent of a fourth-semester proficiency in a second language. This degree does not emphasize having a science education. It only requires you to take science courses that fulfill your general education requirements. A B.A. degree may be best for you if you have not taken many science classes and only want to focus on mathematics.
A B.S. in mathematics from most colleges and universities only requires you to show a second-semester second language proficiency. This degree has a strong emphasis on science education. You need to take science courses beyond the general education requirements such as:
If you have already taken several science courses, then you should probably pursue a B.S. degree in mathematics.
College Math Education Majors
Another major you should consider pursuing to become a high school math teacher is in secondary education with a concentration in mathematics. You can major in mathematics or statistics, but you may not receive the training you need to be a high school math teacher. Mathematicians receive training to use mathematical concepts to analyze data and solve problems. There is no training in mathematics or statistics on teaching high school students from various socio-economic backgrounds who may have differing math abilities.
Some universities offer a mathematics education degree. The mathematics degree and mathematics education degree programs are significantly different. An example of some of the classes you will need to take to earn a degree in mathematics include:
• College algebra and geometry
• Calculus with analytic geometry
• Calculus with business applications
• Differential equations
• Linear algebra/matrices
• Logic and set theory
When you major in mathematics education or secondary education with a concentration in mathematics, you will have to take some of these classes. Yet, there are other classes that you will take that specifically train you for working and teaching in a high school classroom. Some of these classes include:
• Adolescent development for educators
• Applications of teaching and learning theories to classroom practices
• Assessment and evaluation
• Classroom management and positive behavior support
• Teaching English learners
• Effective instructional strategies for students with learning disabilities
As you can see, these classes will prepare you to teach students with diverse backgrounds and abilities. These classes are not a part of the traditional mathematics degree program. There is also a student teaching component to a math education or secondary education degree. Student teaching candidates will learn much about running a classroom and teaching students successfully. A discussion about student teaching is in the “Student Teaching” and “Teaching Internships” sections.
High School Preparation for a Math Degree
You should prepare yourself as soon as possible if you are a high school student who loves math and is contemplating becoming a high school math teacher. There is a strategic way for you to start preparing for a math degree or a math education degree while still in high school. When you start preparing early, you can potentially eliminate the risk of taking unnecessary classes that can get in the way of achieving your goal.
When you are in high school, you should take math classes every year, even if you already meet the math requirement to graduate. These classes should include taking honors and advanced placement math courses. You should also take high-level courses in other math-related subjects such as:
- computer science
Taking extra classes in math and math-related courses will help you to gain a better understanding of mathematics. It will also prepare you for the intense coursework that you will experience at the college level.
It is not just about the number of math classes you take, though. Colleges and universities also look at the type of math classes you take. They tend to only accept students into their math programs who took high-level high school math classes like:
They usually do not accept high school coursework in consumer math, business math, or some other basic mathematics coursework.
You should take advanced placement math courses if these classes are at your high school. Advanced placement classes are the most rigorous classes you can take. AP courses will give you an idea of the coursework you can expect to experience at the collegiate level. Some colleges and universities may give you credit toward a B.A. or B.S. degree if you pass the AP exam with a high score. Other colleges and universities will allow you to take advanced math courses without taking prerequisite math courses.
Completing an AP math class helps eliminate the number of math classes you need to take for a college degree. You can shorten the amount of time you need to spend in college to earn a degree in mathematics. You can also start working on a graduate degree or enter a teacher-credentialing program sooner.
High School Preparation for a Math Education Degree
Preparing to earn a B.A. or B.S. in math education while you are still in high school is mostly the same as preparing for a mathematics degree. There is only one noticeable difference. Getting a degree in math education means that you intend to teach children, so you should gain some experience working with children. You can do this by becoming a mentor or tutor.
High schools do not offer classes on how to become a teacher or how to teach. However, many high schools have mentoring and tutoring clubs to give high school students a chance to work with younger students. These clubs can help you learn about what it means to be an educator and develop your teaching skills.
You can also use your strong math skills to tutor other high school students and gain teaching experience at the grade level you intend to teach. Be sure to ask your math teacher if your high school has a math mentoring or tutoring club and ask to join the club.
Getting a Teaching Credential
It is necessary to take classes in mathematics education and secondary education to become a high school teacher. You gain expertise in mathematics to develop a strong foundation in the subject you will be teaching. You also must have education training so that you know how to teach math. Being good in math does not necessarily make you a good teacher. There are many teaching methods that you must learn before you get in front of a classroom full of students. Some of these methods include:
• Using visuals and real-world learning experiences
• Asking thought-provoking questions to develop critical thinking skills
• Having students work in small groups for cooperative learning experiences
• Teaching with technology like digital whiteboards and mobile devices
• Using effective behavior-management strategies
You will learn these strategies and more when you take math education and secondary education classes to earn a degree. You will also learn these strategies while taking classes to earn a teaching credential. Every state requires all teachers to have a bachelor’s degree, and some will require you to earn a master’s degree at some point within five years of being hired. Each state also requires that teachers take and pass certification tests in the subjects that they will teach.
You will also need a teaching credential or certificate to be a teacher. The number of college-level classes you will need to take to earn a teaching credential or certificate varies by state. Be sure to check your state’s requirements. You do not have to have a teaching credential or certificate to be hired as a teacher by a school district. However, you need to be in a college-level credentialing program with the expectation that you will obtain a teaching credential or certificate within two to three years.
If you are working to earn a degree in math education or secondary education, you can become a student teacher. Colleges and universities work with school districts to have education students teach classroom lessons in local schools. As a student teacher, you will:
- write lesson plans
- learn the craft of teaching to students of diverse backgrounds and abilities
- observe experienced teachers teach and manage a classroom
Student teachers do not get paid, but they gain valuable insight into what it takes to be an effective teacher. The classroom teacher observes the student teacher. The classroom teacher gives the student teacher feedback on their performance. Student teachers have limited responsibilities other than to teach a few lessons and tutor students.
Teaching internships are offered to those who already have a college degree and are enrolled in a teaching credential program. Those who want a teaching internship must apply for an open teaching position with a school district. Once they are hired by the school district, they will perform all the duties of a regular teacher, including:
• Setting up a classroom and writing lesson plans
• Teaching students and managing their behavior
• Disciplining and counseling students
• Testing students and grading papers
• Calling and meeting parents
A teaching internship is a paid position, but you will get paid at a lower rate than a teacher with a credential. The teaching credential program at your college or university provides you with a supervisor who periodically observes you in the classroom, according to the terms of your teaching contract. The supervisor may ask you to teach a certain type of lesson to see how you perform. The supervisor will evaluate you and give you suggestions on how to improve your classroom teaching style. When you work as a teacher intern, you have two to three years to get your teaching credential. Once you have the credential, the school district may choose to hire you as a permanent teacher.
Teachers are an essential part of educating the next generation. Therefore, they must be well trained and have expertise in the subjects that they teach. If you want to become a high school math teacher, then the best major for high school employment can be:
- math education
- secondary education with a concentration in mathematics
Each of these degree programs will give you all the tools you need to succeed in a career teaching mathematics. As you go through your post-graduate education, you will gain experience and confidence to teach at the high school level.
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