kitchen table math, the sequel: Lsquared on math knowledge and teachers

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lsquared on math knowledge and teachers

... I believe that studies have shown that math knowledge positively correlates with teaching ability for secondary teachers, but not necessarily for elementary teachers.

On the other hand, as someone who teaches math to future elementary teachers, there are some who I'm convinced will make better teachers of elementary math than others, and often (though not always) they are good at math in general. Of the ones that I privately think to myself--I would be delighted for my child to be in his/her class, maybe 1/3 of them are math minors, as opposed to maybe 1/8 of a typical class being math minors...And there are a few mathematicians (not at the university where I teach now) who I'm not sure should be teaching math to college students, much less elementary students, because they have no talent or interest in figuring out how learners think.
I'm surprised to learn that 1/8 of students taking Lsquared's class are math minors.

12 comments:

momof4 said...

How many math classes do elementary-level math majors and minors need? How many do non-math elementary teachers need?

ChemProf said...

This is going to vary a ton by state. In California, for example, there is no "elementary-level math major" or "elementary education" major, as the legistlature required (years ago) that future teachers major in an "academic subject." Most of them opt for liberal studies majors, which (depending on the school) may not require a single course in math (although it usually requires one or two courses in math AND science).

Lsquared said...

Our students who are elementary ed majors, but not math minors take 2 4-credit math courses and a 3-credit math techniques course.

All elementary ed students have to have a minor. This minor has to be either early-childhood (which has an enrollment cap, or there would be more students doing it I expect--a little over 1/4 of the students are early childhood minors), or it has to be a teaching-minor that will let them teach a middle school subject area. It may be an overestimate that 1/8 of my students are math minors (I certainly haven't gone back and looked at my course lists for the past several years or anything), but math minors aren't particularly rare. We have a special math minor program just for the elementary ed majors. They take 3 of the same required courses the liberal arts math minors do, and there are a couple of special courses just for them. I think a minor program is about 24 credit hours.

Milwaukee has a program that restricts elementary ed majors even more, and thus has even more math minors.

Anonymous said...

"
We have a special math minor program just for the elementary ed majors. They take 3 of the same required courses the liberal arts math minors do..."


10+ years ago my wife took some classes with Liberal Studies students who were intending to be elementary school teachers upon graduation. One of these for-credit courses was math. The math was pre-algebra (which sorta makes sense as they would be teaching this level of math ... but sorta doesn't as one would like to think that a high school graduate who could get into a Cal State would know 5-6th grade math already). I did not get the impression that these students were doing very well in this class. How much math does your special math minor program require? Based on what my wife saw, it doesn't seem that there would be a lot of overlap between, say, a physics student going for a math minor, and these students going for a math minor.

-Mark Roulo

Lsquared said...

The 3 required overlap courses are Calc 1, 200-level statistics and 300-level discrete math (which has set theory, and graph theory and some proofs and stuff). The 2 el-ed only classes are a computer programming with Logo class (there has to be a technology integration piece in the program: DPI requirement) and a Middle School Math concepts class (whose content varies). The elective classes all have to be standard Math classes from a list of about 10 options which include calc 2 and 3 and number theory and linear algebra and geometry. All classes that a math major would be taking. Anything below the level of calc 1 can't count towards the major or minor.

Lsquared said...

Oh--I think some people are getting confused because I called out math major a liberal arts math major. At my university, you have two choices as a math major, you can get a math-education major (if you intend to teach high school) or you can get a math-liberal arts major, which is everyone else. It looks very similar to the bachelor of science in math program I took as an undergrad. The liberal arts designation in this case means that you are in the college of arts and sciences instead of the college of education, and different rules about GPA and general ed requirements apply.

So a math-liberal arts degree means that you are not an education major (and that you intend to be an actuary, or go on to grad school, or etc). The major is nothing like what a liberal arts major is at some universities, which is sometimes called a general studies major (a most confusing "major"--it seems like you're majoring in nothing in particular, which makes it odd to call it a major...oh well).

momof4 said...

Are the math courses/credits the same whether you're in the ed school or in A&S? At my school, A&S required exactly twice the number of credits for a major/minor than did the ed school - the difference was made up in ed courses. That applied to secondary ed; el ed didn't have majors or minors.

Anonymous said...

"Oh--I think some people are getting confused because I called out math major a liberal arts math major."

Yes, some people (waves!) did get confused. At my wife's college one of the more popular degrees for pre-teacher students was "Liberal Studies." It was basically four years of extended undeclared. One took a bunch of sampler courses, but didn't really learn anything in depth. The math, as I mentioned, was basically 6th grade math. This counted towards ones unit requirement for graduation.

If the teacher-to-be you are seeing are taking three *real* college level math courses (and if the Math majors are taking these classes, then I'm guessing that these are Calculus or harder), then more power to them. That's a real minor, and one I'd be glad to see teachers have.

-Mark Roulo

momof4 said...

At my flagship state university, no el ed kids took any classes with math or physical science majors or minors, whether in ed school or A&S; their math classes might be in the math dept, but it was only for el ed kids. Even secondary-ed majors and minors generally took different classes from the A&S kids, or were assigned different sections of the same classes (makes me question whether they were really the same), at least above freshman level. Classes for the A&S majors and minors (also engineers) tended to be so labelled. This was also true of the sciences.

ChemProf said...

In California, "Liberal Studies" is basically Elementary Education. At a lot of Cal States (I'm most familiar with CSU East Bay and CSU Stanislaus), they don't pretend anything else.

Liberal Studies typically does require a concentration, which can be math, but if you choose another concentration, the major itself requires only one math OR science course. At CSUS, the "normal" math minor is Calc I, Calc II, and four upper division courses, while the Liberal Studies concentration is Calc I, Calc II, a pre-education course ("Insights from Mathematics") and three upper division courses, one of which can be aimed at teachers. So, it isn't too different for those who make that choice, and they would be very well prepared. But, I don't think it is 1 in 8 in their program!

Anonymous said...

"Liberal Studies typically does require a concentration, which can be math, but if you choose another concentration, the major itself requires only one math OR science course."

My wife went to CSU Hayward (as it was known at the time). I'm pretty sure that the math course she took was MATH 2011. The course catalog description is, "Structure of number systems, place value, whole numbers, integers, fractions, decimals, real numbers. Standard and nonstandard algorithms, mental computation. Algebra as generalized arithmetic. Divisibility, prime and composite numbers, GCF, LCM. Ratio, proportion, percents."

If I read the requirements for the degree, they now require more than one math course in the teacher-prep track. My read is that they require four classes, which get up through algebra with a bit of informal geometry. I'd say that these courses are probably equivalent to what was through HS 10th grade when I was in HS.

An improvement over one 6-8th grade math course ... I wonder if one can challenge out of many of these classes?

-Mark Roulo

Lsquared said...

Here in my little corner of Wisconsin (neither Madison, nor Milwaukee), the elementary ed students take 2 math courses in "Math for Elementary Ed" so these are courses only for El. Ed. (teacher knowledge for grades 1-6 with a few nods toward math for K and 7-8). Everyone must have a minor, however, and the ones who are math minors take some real math classes (calc 1 and above) with math majors. Like I said, we get maybe 1/10-1/8 of the el ed majors as math minors, I think.

Milwaukee, by the way, has an even more structured El Ed programs, with only 4 choices for minors, so they have significantly more math minors...I think they take more classes that are custom designed for them, however.

There are no special sections of courses for secondary ed students--they take the same courses as the A&S students. One of the quirkier things that happens is that because the A&S major is less restrictive than the Ed major, students who can't make the GPA minimum for student teaching, often end up graduating with an A&S math major instead of an Ed major. It's not perfect (really it's not), but it improves the quality of secondary teachers we graduate.