How to Become a Math Teacher

If you like problem solving and want to pass your knowledge on to future generations, you may be wondering how to become a math teacher.

Education

Your first step will be to get a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Also, if your college or university has a teacher education program, you will need to enroll and take the required courses. Most often you will have to decide between whether you are most interested in working with younger students in elementary/middle school or older students in junior high and high school. Many times the certifications overlap at the sixth to eighth grade levels. Basically preparation to become a teacher includes numerous education courses as well as a semester of student teaching – where you will train at a school with an experienced teacher. Here, you will learn what the job is actually like by making lesson plans, grading papers, and instructing students.

If your institution of higher learning does not offer teacher preparation, you will need to find an alternative program that allows you to be certified. Many of these exist, especially for math teachers, who are in great demand right now in the United States. In fact, due to short supply of qualified math teachers, many states now offer alternative teaching certification programs that place math graduates in the classroom as they work toward completing a degree in education.

Certification

All fifty states require that public school teachers be certified, but since each one has different requirements, you need to check with your particular state’s Department of Education to find out what the requirements are.

If you already have your degree, you may have the option of completing a fifth-year course in education in order to qualify for certification. Alternatively, you could pursue a master's degree in education, since there are some states that require their public school teachers earn their master’s within a certain number of years after being hired. So by already having this degree, you won’t have to worry about teaching while taking graduate school classes. Also, don’t be surprised if your state requires you to continue your professional development by earning a certain number of credits through supplemental courses in order to keep your teaching certification up-to-date.

Typical Day

When thinking about what age students you want to teach, consider that before middle school, you will mostly be teaching math facts and basics like addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, place value, decimals, percentages, fractions, ratios, etc. Middle school math will start getting into algebra and geometry, and by high school, students are learning advanced algebra, trigonometry, and pre-calculus.

On any given day you will be preparing lessons, teaching students through lectures and other hands-on activities, and grading papers. You also may need to conference with parents or administrators. In addition, you may have to monitor the halls, lunchroom, parking lot, etc. Basically, anything your principal asks you to do is part of your job, and this might include sponsoring a club or extracurricular activity.

Pay and Benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time math teachers earned an average yearly salary of $65,450 in 2007. Math teachers also enjoy strong job security as well as comprehensive benefits. In addition, many qualify for the Taxpayer-Teacher Protection Act that authorizes up to $17,500 in Stafford Student Loans be forgiven for qualified math teachers who teach for five years in Title 1 schools.

Becoming a successful math teacher requires not only a passion for mathematics but also a real desire to help young people learn valuable analytical skills they will need for many of life’s challenges.