How well prepared to teach math are middle school teachers in the United States? Not very, researchers said a recent press release. This disappointing news was uncovered when comparing math teachers in the U.S. with those in five other countries.
Researchers at Michigan State University performed this comparison. American middle school math teachers are not well equipped to teach math to students today. The fact that students today are falling behind other countries risks putting America behind those other countries in many areas that need high math skills, including research and development.
Astoundingly, researchers discovered that future teachers perform the worst in algebra. Algebra compromises the very basics for middle school math education throughout the U.S.
As the world economy continues to evolve into a global economy, the ability for a country to be successful is highly contingent on it’s workers being trained and educated. The U.S. was compared to Bulgaria, Germany, Mexico, South Korea, and Taiwan.
While most teachers in America can obtain their teaching license with as little as four years of college education, this is not the case around the globe. In other countries, teacher preparation ranges from as little as four years, to as many as seven years, before they are allowed to instruct students.
“Our future teachers are getting weak training mathematically and are just not prepared to teach the demanding mathematics curriculum we need for middle schools if we hope to compete internationally,” said William Schmidt, MSU Distinguished Professor of counseling, educational psychology and special education.
Schmidt continued, “It is important for us as a nation to understand that teacher preparation programs are critical, not only for future teachers, but also for the children they will be teaching.”
The study also determined that:
-Teachers in South Korea and Taiwan are usually educated about more advanced math concepts. Indeed, nearly 80 percent have received training in more advanced math topics.
-Only about half, 50 percent, of the teachers in Mexico and the U.S. receive training in advanced math.
-Teachers in the U.S. perform best when tested in their knowledge of statistics. This is the one area of math where U.S. teachers are near the average for all teachers, internationally.
-Teacher education in the U.S. is segmented into three primary categories: elementary, secondary, and middle school education
-Researchers determined that elementary teachers are more focused on teaching skills, and less in math. Secondary teachers are more focused on math skills than teaching skills. Middle school teachers receive the worst training of both of these.
The complete study done by Michigan State University, Mathematics Teaching in the 21st Century (MT21), is available online. To read the full study, click HERE.