A preparation program for secondary mathematics teachers

Abstract

There is a shortage of mathematics teachers nation wide and in Texas in particular. On their web site, the Texas State Board for Educator Certification states "Texas has shortages in all areas. However, the need for teachers is particularly great in math, science, special education, foreign languages, technology applications, and bilingual education.[1]" The Texas Workforce Commission echoes this concern on their web site saying "The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects teaching as one of the fastest growing occupations over the next 5-10 years and beyond, with demand and growth continuing to increase.[2]" This reference to the Bureau of Labor Statistics is backed up in U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition, Teachers which predicts "Employment of school teachers is expected to grow by 12 percent between 2006 and 2016"[3]. The growth in teacher demand is based on increases in student enrollment and "Fast-growing States in the South and West---led by Nevada, Arizona, Texas, and Georgia---will experience the largest enrollment increases.[3]" In order to fill this demand there has been an increasing effort to encourage people who have been in the workforce to go into teaching as a second career. Troops to Teachers, a federal program that helps military members who are leaving the military to obtain teacher certifications and find jobs in the teaching field, is one example of this effort. There are a number of alternative certification programs available for people to use who want to go into teaching as a second career. The typical candidates for such programs have completed his/her college requirements for his/her teaching field and only need to complete the educational courses.

One shortcoming of these programs is that the college courses the applicants completed are related to a career field other than teaching, and were likely completed many years in the past. The Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences addressed this concern in The Mathematical Education of Teachers Book. They felt that too often people believed that since the mathematics taught in public schools focused primarily on basic mathematics skills, it would be easy for someone with college level experience to teach. What is stressed, though, is that "The mathematical knowledge needed for teaching is quite different from that required by college students pursuing other mathematics-related professions. Prospective teachers need a solid understanding of mathematics so they can teach it as a coherent, reasoned activity and communicate its elegance and power.[4]".

The purpose of this thesis is to develop a college-level course that will review a wide variety of topics and provide a pedagogical perspective on those topics. Since it will cover a wide variety of topics, each area will not be covered in the detail a typical college course would cover. The use of technology is intended to show people new to teaching some of the newer tools that are available today.

In determining how to structure this course different materials were consulted, including The Mathematical Education of Teachers Book, Chapter 9 The Preparation of High School Teachers. (www.cbmsweb.org). However, since teacher certification is a state requirement, the course is structured around a state program. The Texas State Board for Educator Certification has a framework for the skills a secondary mathematics teacher should have[5]. This framework is broken down into 6 domains containing a total of 21 competencies and provides the essential structure for courses. The framework is tied directly to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for specific secondary mathematics courses that will be used by teachers certified in Texas.

In addition to specific mathematics topics, the materials developed for the course developed in this thesis will include an examination of the technology available to teachers today. The first resource used as a research tool is the web. The course requires students to use the web, rather than textbooks, for the research work they do in the course. Web sites are also used for demonstrations in the course and students are shown how to find sites that can be used in the classroom. Geometer's Sketchpad programs are used in demonstrations during the class presentations, while other programs are discussed as useful tools. Graphing calculator instructions for the TI-84 are included since it is the calculator of choice for most high schools in Texas and the one that future teachers will be most likely to use in the classroom.

The teaching profession benefits from the experience people who have been out in the workforce bring to the classroom. This course will hopefully help those people become successful mathematics teachers.

(1) http://www.sbec.state.tx.us/SBECOnline/certinfo/becometeacher. (2) http://www.twc.state.tx.us/careers/teaching.html. (3) Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook , 2008-09 Edition, Teachers--Preschool, Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle, and Secondary, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos069.htm. (4) http:/www.cbmsweb.org/MET_Document/Preface.htm. (5) http://texes.ets.org/assets/pdf/testprep_manuals/135_math8_12_55009_web.pdf.

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Mathematics