Math Teacher Jobs and Employment Opportunities
Mathematics is taught at every grade level, and math teachers offer instruction in topics as varied as money, arithmetic, geometry, trigonometry, topology and cryptography. Like any teacher, math teachers must prepare and present lessons, grade homework and exams and motivate their students to excel. Math teachers should complete at least a bachelor's degree program in math or math education, have supervised classroom experience and obtain a state license to teach at a public school.
Math Teacher Job Descriptions
Mathematics is a significant part of the curriculum in most educational programs. The study of math starts with general concepts and basic arithmetic in the first grade, increasing in complexity and branching out into other subfields, like trigonometry and calculus, through high school and college.
Elementary School Math Teachers
Elementary school teachers are typically generalists who teach many subjects to one class. The mathematics component includes arithmetic, fractions, simple geometry, decimals, money, time and measurement. Most elementary schools hire teachers with at least a bachelor's degree in elementary education, of which training in teaching mathematics is just a part.
Secondary School Math Teachers
Secondary school teachers tend to specialize, teaching a small number of subjects to many classes. Disciplines taught by middle school math teachers include equations, graphs, ratios, geometry, statistics and scientific notation. High school math covers algebra, calculus, trigonometry and probability. Secondary schools look for math teachers with a bachelor's, specialist or master's degree in mathematics education or mathematics degree in conjunction with teacher education training.
Postsecondary Math Teachers
Some postsecondary math teachers provide remedial math, business math or statistics instruction to high school graduates who need refresher courses or want to better their career chances. Subjects taught by college math teachers span the range between simple math for non-math graduates to advanced topics like differential topology or cryptography. Class sizes may vary greatly, from one or two students to a large lecture hall. College math professors may have graduate student assistants to ease their workload, but assistants require their own supervision and administration.
A master's degree in mathematics or math education may be required to be a math teacher at a community college or technical school, or to take part-time, temporary or adjunct faculty positions at the collegiate level. For a tenure-track college faculty position, a Ph.D. in mathematics is the norm.
Math teachers must prepare for class every day, creating and adapting a lesson plan that not only suits the school's learning objectives but is also tailored to their students' abilities. Teachers present lessons, provide illustrations, give homework assignments, create and grade tests, review or grade homework and complete the administrative work required to record and submit grades.
An important responsibility for math teachers is to inspire and motivate their students to learn. Teachers monitor the progress of their students and help slower students catch up. They meet with students or their parents to discuss progress and resolve any outstanding issues. They must work cooperatively with other faculty members and the school administration.
All U.S. states expect math teachers in public schools to obtain a state license, which requires a bachelor's degree, a minimum number of teaching hours and passing scores on a licensing exam. Licenses are often specific to elementary, middle or secondary schools, and require renewal every few years.
Math teachers who have a degree but insufficient education credits can generally apply for provisional licensure, allowing them to teach under supervision while completing a qualifying education coursework or a master's degree in education. Math teachers in private schools typically do not need to seek state licensure, and qualifications may be less rigorous than those for public school teachers.
As the demographic bulge of baby boomers' children exits the education system, the once-rapid growth of teaching jobs is falling to merely average growth. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), jobs for elementary and secondary school teachers were projected to grow 13% from 2008- 2018, with the largest growth expected in the South and West. The rate of growth for postsecondary teaching jobs was slightly higher at 15% during this same period.
The median annual salary in 2008 was $49,330 for elementary school teachers, $49,700 for middle school teachers, $51,180 for secondary school teachers and $58,830 for postsecondary school teachers. Most teaching jobs last for nine months out of the year, and many teachers supplement their salaries by teaching summer school, tutoring or finding jobs unrelated to education. Postsecondary teachers may gain added income from publications, research and consulting fees.
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