Multiply Your Career Fulfillment: Become a Math Teacher
March 10, 2021
Think back to your school days. Did you secretly enjoy the math homework that some of your classmates complained about so earnestly? Did you look forward to Algebra, and hang on every mention of numbers?
If so, you probably want today’s young people to experience the love of math that you once felt. If you feel called to teaching, and math is your area of expertise, becoming a math teacher is definitely a worthy endeavor. This article will outline some important steps to consider if being a math teacher is your goal.
How long does it take to become a math teacher?
Do you already have at least a bachelor’s degree in teaching or education? If you want to know how to be a math teacher, a degree in one of these areas is a good starting point. If you received a minor in mathematics, that’s an even greater plus.
Each state sets its own standards in regard to teaching, but the general expectation is a bachelor’s degree in education (or in the subject you will be teaching) along with the license for your state. If you’re hoping to teach young students in kindergarten or elementary school, you might choose to major in something related to general elementary education. To be a math teacher in middle or secondary school, you might need additional training for more advanced math.
You may find that your particular state has extra stipulations for their math teachers. In Pennsylvania, for example, you can start teaching with your bachelor’s degree. However, you will be required to earn an additional 24 credit hours, undergraduate or graduate, within six years.
A few states require teachers to possess a master’s degree, which adds about two more years of education and training. For example, in New York City, teachers are required to earn a master’s degree after five years of teaching. This allows them to move up to the next certification level and continue their careers.
What if my bachelor’s degree is in another field?
Perhaps you’d like to know what it takes to be a math teacher without an education degree. Fortunately, alternative teacher preparation programs are designed for this purpose. Colleges and universities all over the United States partner with local school districts to prepare competent teachers for rapid entry into areas where teacher shortages exist.
If there is a math teacher shortage in your community, an alternative teacher preparation program is an excellent way for you to prepare for the classroom quickly. Your best chance for acceptance is to already have your bachelor’s degree in a math-related field.
Note that an alternative teacher preparation program is not necessarily an easier way to become a teacher; it’s just a different path. It’s ideal for someone who is inexperienced in the classroom, but desires to change careers.
An alternative teacher preparation program can take up to two years to complete, although some may be faster. If you are interested in pursuing your master’s degree in an education field, which also takes about two years, that might be an equally viable solution, depending on your situation.
What is required to become a math teacher?
Before getting started with your education, you should know math teacher requirements. What degrees do you need to be a math teacher? What tests do you need to take? Becoming a math teacher, like so much else in life, starts one step at a time. According to Teachers of Tomorrow, here are some of the steps that you might need to take:
1. Obtain a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. It’s ideal to pursue a major in education with an emphasis on math. As mentioned previously, alternative paths such as alternative teacher preparation programs exist to help you become a math teacher if you’ve already finished your bachelor’s degree.
2. Get your teaching certificate. Not every state is the same, so pursue a certificate in the state where you want to be a math teacher. This will most likely involve exams for basic skills in addition to math skills. After earning your bachelor’s degree and passing the necessary exams, you’ll be able to apply for teacher certification.
3. Demonstrate your skills in mathematics. Certain states require you to pass a math teacher preparation program in order to proceed. These exams could be either the National Evaluation Series Exam, Praxis II Mathematics Exam, or a Number Sense and Mathematical Processes exam.
4. Talk to local schools and consider being a substitute. This will help you get your foot in the door, and will show schools in your district that you are competent and qualified for any positions that become available.
5. Consider pursuing a master’s degree. Especially for those of you who desire to meet high school math teacher requirements, this step may be very important. In a few states, a master’s degree is required to teach, even if you have years of experience.
6. Obtain your official teaching license. Although the specifics vary from one state to another, they all require that teachers have a license. In order to qualify, you’ll generally need at least a bachelor’s degree, and you’ll need to have completed any teacher training programs and passed the applicable examinations. If your bachelor’s has already been completed in a field other than teaching/education, you’ll also need to complete an alternative teacher preparation program in your area.
What degree do you need to become a math teacher?
You’ll find that there is more than one way to achieve your goal of becoming a math teacher. In fact, there are many degrees that can lead to you eventually teach math in an elementary, middle, or high school.
However, two things are essential for a math teacher: He or she must possess competence in the discipline of mathematics, and he or she must have some exposure to the field of education. According to this article from MathTeacherEDU, these skills can be obtained through earning either a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
Here are some examples of degrees, both bachelor’s and master’s, that might be appropriate to start a career as a math teacher:
Bachelor of Science in Mathematics Education
Bachelor of Science in Education with a concentration in mathematics
Master of Education
Master of Arts in Teaching with a concentration in mathematics
This is a partial list. Although the names vary, they contain similar areas of focus. For a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education, you’d be very likely to take classes in Calculus, Linear Algebra, Logic and Set Theory, Discrete Mathematics, and Geometry.
While those courses may cover the math portion, education requirements will include classes such as these: Introduction to Education, Schools and our Society, Education for Special Populations, and Human Development and Learning.
For someone pursuing a master’s degree in the field of mathematics education, you will likely have classes addressing mathematical thinking, statistics, understanding and teaching Algebra, educational research in mathematics and science, and other similar classes.
If you’ve been investigating master’s programs, you might have noticed that there are generally two degree options: master of arts in teaching versus master of education. As long as you complete classes that will ready you for teaching mathematics, as well as prepare you for the necessary certification exams, it doesn’t make much of a difference which degree you choose to pursue; the only real differences exist between those who have a bachelor’s degree as opposed to a master’s degree. Among comparable education-related degrees, you will find similar results when it is time to seek employment. School districts seek competent and qualified teachers, and more than one type of degree can land you your dream job.
What certification is needed to become a math teacher?
Certification for a math teacher is synonymous with licensing. Each state’s requirements may vary slightly, but some rules apply across the board. See below for some general information based on the grade level you hope to teach.
Certification for elementary school math teachers
With a recent emphasis on the importance of STEM, (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics,) in education, math at the elementary school level is transforming. A need for math specialist teachers has arisen.
In general, elementary math teacher requirements are based on the structure of K-5 schools. Depending on how young the students are, a math teacher in elementary school might not teach math for the entire day — they might be responsible for other subjects, too. Therefore, the school may look for a more generalized degree, such as one in elementary education. Requirements for certification will be similar to what you would need to teach any other subject; usually, that’s at least a bachelor’s degree, and the applicable examinations for your state. A teacher preparation program, such as this one will prepare you to take your state’s specific exam for teacher licensing.
Certification required for middle school math teachers
Middle school math teacher requirements vary somewhat from elementary school qualifications. Mathematics teachers at this level usually possess at least a bachelor’s degree that includes an emphasis on math as well as education. Some even specialize in a particular type of math, such as Calculus.
Many who teach at the middle school level chose to obtain a master’s degree, although some states will accept a bachelor’s degree as adequate education to be a middle school math teacher. Of course teachers also need to pass all necessary examinations and receive a license to teach in their specific state.
Certification required for high school math teachers
High school math teacher requirements vary from one state to another, but some trends exist. For example, because high school math teachers generally teach higher-level courses, you can expect to see a high percentage of high school math teachers with advanced degrees.
In addition to relevant education, you’ll need a state-issued license in order to teach high school math. Keeping your license, for high school and other grades, will generally require you to participate in continuing education. This will help you stay aware of current trends in teaching, since the field evolves over time.
When relocating to another state
If you’re moving to another state, you may find that not all states will honor your teaching certification. Learn more about teaching licensure reciprocity.
Math teacher salary
Now that you’ve seen some of the information related to how to become a math teacher, you might be curious as to how much a math teacher can expect to earn in a typical year. A lot of variables exist in this area, such as the state in which you’re working, the type of school you’re teaching math for, and your level of education and experience. So when you see the averages below, sourced from Glassdoor, consider what specific variables may apply to your situation.
Typical salary for an elementary school math teacher
The average salary for an elementary school math teacher in the United States is $48,241 per year. But that figure could certainly vary depending on where you’re located. For example, the same job in Los Angeles, CA is averaging $54,936.
Typical salary for a middle school math teacher
For a math teacher at the middle school level, the average U.S. salary is $47,866. Again, you can find some variation by location. If you live in New York City, the average pay for a middle school math teacher rises significantly, to $63,744.
Typical salary for a high school math teacher
If you choose to teach math at the high school level, the average salary in the United States is $48,578 per year. This might also be higher if you teach in certain districts. In Boston, MA, the average salary is $51,081.
Whether you’re just starting on your career path, or you have already completed most of your education, deciding whether to pursue being a math teacher will take some introspection. If you are really unsure, guides like this one can help you decide if teaching, in general, is a good fit for you.
Now that you have some ideas about how to become a math teacher, the decision is up to you. Not everyone is skilled at math or even wants to teach. But if this is your calling, there is a place waiting for you in one of hundreds of math classrooms across the country.
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