The Success of Math Majors as Classroom Teachers


Teachers play an important role in the success of every society. For example, the education system cannot be successful without teachers. Within the education system, it is the role of teachers to disseminate knowledge to students. In addition, teachers should guide students in their learning process thus increasing the probability of the students attaining their educational and career objectives. Every teacher has unique qualities and capabilities. Therefore a teacher cannot teach any subject. Teachers are more successful in subjects of their interest and in those in which they are better skilled. Mathematics is one of the subjects which most students find fairly challenging. This study is aimed at investigating the success of teachers who major in mathematics.

Mathematics is one of the most important subjects. For example, the subject is a key requirement in most careers (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM, 1999, para. 5). Despite mathematics being a requirement for most successful careers, it tops as one of the subjects most disliked by students (National Urban League, 1998, para. 4). In addition, the subject is highly misunderstood even by teachers. Hersh (1986) asserts that an individual’s level of understanding in relation to a given subject is dependent on the attitude developed towards the subject. Despite the beliefs of many individuals, understanding the nature of mathematics other than opinions on the best way to teach the subject determines the success of mathematic teachers in their careers. Hersh (1986, p. 13) asserts that one’s conception of mathematic affects his or her conception of how it should be presented. He further explains that the way an individual teacher presents mathematics is a reflection of his or her belief in mathematic. He concludes that the issue is not on the best way to teach mathematics but understanding what mathematics entails (Hersh, 1986, p. 13).

Mathematics has a long history. For example, people of different time periods understand mathematics differently. Hersh (1986, p.13) provides an authentic definition of mathematics by defining mathematics as ideas. In addition, Hersh asserts that mathematics does not entail marks, physical triangles and sets. However, these objects are used in representing ideas. To understand mathematic, he lists three properties of mathematic knowledge. The author asserts that:

  • Mathematical objects develop from humans
  • Mathematics concepts are not arbitrarily but created
  • Mathematic concepts have well-determined properties.

Mathematics concepts have to be used in a purposeful way. In addition, logical reasoning in learning mathematics should help in decision-making. The quality of mathematic is determined by various factors. According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), high-quality mathematics education is that which instills mathematical power in all students (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM], 1998).

The ability to conjecture, explore and logically thinking hence communicating the results can also be used in defining mathematical power. Mathematics power is vital in solving day-to-day problems. For example, quantitative information is used daily by various parties in solving various problems and decision-making processes. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics holds that success in building mathematical power is depended on an appropriate curriculum and a good learning environment. It emphasizes the need for adequate training on mathematics teachers to equip them to handle educational needs.

The method used in teaching mathematics has a great influence on the success of mathematics as a subject. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics provides a strong philosophy on the way mathematic should be taught. The council postulates that mathematical teaching is one in which the students participate in objective activities that develop from a problem situation, calling for creativity and reasoning, discovering, gathering and making use of information, inventing, testing ideas and communicating the ideas ( Thompson, 1992, p. 128). This view of learning mathematics is different from the view of learning as mastering concepts and procedures. NCTM, however, does not trivialize importance concepts and procedure as presented in the curriculum but insist on the application of the concept to solve real-life problems. The council insists that although some fundamental concepts and procedures should be taught to all students, the focus should not be on knowing but on using the learned concepts.

Statement of the problem

There has been an increment in the quality of mathematics in the US. The main areas of concern relate to weak mathematic standards in the country and the qualification of teachers. Findings of a study conducted by William Schmidt revealed that US elementary middle-school tutors do not undergo comprehensive preparation compared to other countries. He posits that low qualifications and a weak math curriculum lead to underachievement in mathematics. Schmidt asserted that a weak K-12 mathematics curriculum, taught by underqualified teachers leads to graduates that are at a disadvantage (Michigan State University, 2010, para. 3). The cycle of poor low mathematic qualification continues as some of the underqualified graduates later join teaching. Schmidt recommends that the country needs to break from this cycle for it to remain competitive. One of the recommended solutions to the problem is to recruit teachers who have a strong background in mathematics.

The rationale of the study

Mathematics plays a significant role in the development of a country. Mathematical knowledge is required in almost every area. Lowering the standard of mathematics thus implies that the country’s competitiveness will be reduced. This means that mathematic teachers play a vital role in the success of the country. Through effective dissemination of mathematic concepts, teachers influence the future level of mathematics in the country (Michigan State University, 2010, para. 6). Although there are various studies on an educational issue, none address the success of mathematics majors in the classroom. This study will seek to bridge this gap by providing a relationship between mathematic majors and success in the classroom.

The government spends a significant proportion of its budget on education. This arises from the realization of the fact that the success of the country is depended on the quality of education. Lowering mathematics qualifications in the country is thus a cause for worry. Lowering standards of mathematics has immediate and future negative effects. Students with low mathematics qualifications will be less competitive in the global market. As the future economy is highly dependent on strong scientific and mathematical foundations, lowering mathematics qualifications may affect the country’s competitiveness. The study is then important in policymaking. Results from the study can be very resourceful in determining the course of action to address lowering mathematics standards.

The 21st century is characterized by numerous challenges and demands. Most of the challenges call for technological intervention which highly depends on individuals’ mathematical capacity. Therefore, a strong foundation in mathematics will place students in a better position in pursuing careers in technology. Findings from this study can be used in planning so as to effectively address emerging global challenges.

Reference List

  1. Hersh, R. (1986). Some proposals for revising the philosophy of mathematics. Advances in Mathematics. Vol. 31, issue 1, pp. 31-50.
  2. Michigan State University (2010). The US needs better-trained math teachers to compete globally, study finds. ScienceDaily. Web.
  3. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (1999). Shaping the standards: Share your thoughts about principles. Teaching Children Mathematics. Vol.5, issue 5, pp.262-263.
  4. National Urban League. (1999). Math opens doors…and it’s fun too! Who needs math? Web.
  5. Thompson, A. G. (1992). Teacher’s beliefs and conceptions: A synthesis of the research. Handbook of research on mathematics teaching and learning. New York: Macmillan.

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ChalkyPapers. "The Success of Math Majors as Classroom Teachers." February 12, 2022.