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Why Teach Mathematics? Results of a Survey and Interviews with Diverse Credential Candidates. Mark Ellis Angelica Cortes California State University, Fullerton http://faculty.fullerton.edu/mellis. CONCERNS ABOUT TEACHERS OF MATH IN CALIFORNIA.

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Why teach mathematics results of a survey and interviews with diverse credential candidates l.jpg

Why Teach Mathematics? Results of a Survey and Interviews with Diverse Credential Candidates

Mark Ellis

Angelica Cortes

California State University, Fullerton


Concerns about teachers of math in california l.jpg

  • “Patterns of teacher race and ethnicity differ markedly from patterns in the general population and enrolled students.” (SCCORE, 2005)

  • In California 35% of teachers of mathematics in the middle school do not hold a mathematics teaching credential.(Esch et al., 2005)

Addressing the math teacher shortage l.jpg

  • Foundational-Level Math (FLM) credential created in 2003 (Swofford, 2002)

    • Strong math background, not necessarily math major

    • Provide highly qualified middle school math teachers

  • CSU Fullerton created FLM program in 2004

    • How can we attract more (and more diverse) students to this?

    • Led to the question: Why become a teacher of mathematics?

Prior work l.jpg

  • Factors Influencing Decision to Become a Teacher

    • Interest in working with children

    • Experiences with teaching or teacher-like activities (most typically positive)

    • Positive experiences as a learner

    • Interest in subject matter to be taught

    • Negative perception of other jobs

    • Salaries and material rewards were not motivators

      References: Andrews & Hatch, 2002; Hammond, 2002; Lyons, 1981; Richardson & Watt, 2006

Recruitment rhetoric l.jpg

  • “Why Be a Math Teacher?” (NCTM, 2006)

    • Educate Tomorrow’s Citizens

    • Teach Valuable Real-World Skills

    • You Are Needed

Methods l.jpg

  • Online survey

    • 21 FLM credential students

  • Mathematics Autobiographies

    • 21 FLM credential students

  • Semi-Structured Interviews

    • Purposive sample

    • 5 FLM credential students

      • Time out of college

        • 2 Recent college graduates

        • 3 Mid-career changers

      • Time in U.S.

        • 2 native-born, White

        • 1 first-generation, Latino

        • 2 immigrated to US (1 Latino, 1 Asian)

Participant demographics l.jpg

  • 57% White, 24% Asian, 19% Latino

  • 85% Male, 15% Female

  • 57% speak 2 or 3 languages

  • 48% had worked as a tutor, substitute, or instructional aide

  • 57% were a primary caregiver to child or adult

  • 48% earned BA more than 10 years ago

  • 62% worked for 6 or more years in field other than education

    • 71% were in a “math-based” profession

  • 86% earned grades of “B” or higher in college math coursework

    • 43% had minor or higher in math

    • 33% had BS in engineering or physical science

Decision to become a teacher of math survey data l.jpg

  • What Most Influenced Your Decision to Become a Teacher of Math?

    • Interest in working with adolescents (71%)

    • Math teachers are in-demand (52%)

    • Interest in math (48%)

    • Desire to serve society (48%)

    • Concern about math achievement of US students (43%)

  • Least Influential Factors

    • Teacher salary

    • Dissatisfaction with prior job

Decision to become a teacher of math qualitative data l.jpg

  • Identified as a teacher (self and others)

  • Experience as immigrant or first-generation American

  • Influence of a teacher (+/-)

  • Serve society through work with young people

  • Concern with math achievement of others

  • Appreciation for mathematics

Influence of teachers l.jpg

  • Positive

    • “I had a young math teacher when I was in the 8th grade. He had just graduated from the teaching credential program. He was the first and only teacher who started to ask students questions in the classroom.” (Bill)

    • “I loved my professor’s focus on developing student’s conceptual understanding of math and was eager to test it out. I discovered that I had real knack for teaching math.” (Sandy)

    • “The math department at my high school was very well structured. The grading systems were the same, test were the same, and the teachers were great. The modeling that the teachers posed was the basis for my future career goals.” (Miguel)

    • “It was in my senior year when I became seriously interested in Geometry. The teacher was well organized and neat with the geometric drawings that most of my classmates wanted to imitate his style. Geometry was visualized with the use of art and design.” (Rogelio)

    • “it was my Trig teacher in the 12th grade, the football coach who really made an impact on me with a few simple words after some kids were making some fun at my expense.” (Jack)

  • Negative

    • “I had a horrible teacher who would lecture and do practice problems on the board for the full 50 minutes. She never interacted with the students, other than reminding us to sit quietly and listen.” (Sandy)

    • “I took calculus for the very first time and earned a “D.” I was very upset at the way the class went and the inability to understand the concepts. I retook the course over with a different instructor and I earned an “A.” The second time around everything seemed to be explained clearer than before. I took that same instructor over for the next calculus class and did very well. My confidence with math had been renewed.” (Miguel)

    • “I had trouble in junior high school with the first parts of algebra and ended up having to retake it in high school. Math got real simple after things were explained properly. It wasn’t just left up to reading a book or anything like that. I’m a more hands on sort of person.” (Jack)

Experience as immigrant or first generation american l.jpg

  • “As an EL student when I first came to this country almost 25 years ago, I still vividly remember the struggles I went through to gain access to the academic content and transition myself into a new culture at school. Some steps my teachers took to develop my English skills and help me in making progress toward achieving learning goals. I can benefit greatly from these experiences and be more effective in meeting all students’ needs.” (Bill)

  • “I kinda know the experience that the…everyone’s gone through… and where they come from, and I know their struggles for learning math, and the struggles for being in a society where you are considered a minority even though… eventually you’re not gonna be so much minorities…” (Miguel)

  • “Mostly now especially English learners, I feel more prepared …to give them the opportunity to learn, or to start understanding, especially the concept.” (Rogelio)

Appreciation of mathematics l.jpg

  • “I worked as a geophysicist for 20 over years. I had the opportunity to apply my knowledge of all the math I had ever learned at school, geometry - for surveying and measuring; algebra - for problem solving and computer application; statistics - for operation research and risk management; and calculus - for seismic data processing and interpretation. This experience really gave me a very different perspective about math and its application to our daily life.” (Bill)

  • “I just chose math because I like the fact that it’s always solvable, it’s direct, and that it challenges you. You don’t just get told, ‘Believe it, and just believe it.’ You’re told, ‘Believe it and put it into action.’” (Miguel)

  • “Being inquisitive about it [math] helped me; asking a lot of ‘why does this work?’ questions. It’s just something I can do, thinking logically, solving puzzles, trying to see how things fit together. I find it fun. I wouldn’t say it comes naturally but I am just inquisitive and curious.” (Jack)

Service to society through work with young people l.jpg

  • “And math is just my outlet, you know? So, it just…it comes more from you wanting to give back to the community and liking the fact that I have some effect on changing the way the community is gonna think, changing the way the kids in the community are gonna grow, so that’s it. I became a teacher just mostly for that.” (Miguel)

  • “I was working some other kind of job that was not really my field. She [my sister] told me that there is some…there is a lot of students who really need help learning math. And then she told me ‘because you are an architect, I know you know math a lot, so maybe you can help them.’” (Rogelio)

  • “I was looking for something that would get me back in touch with working with kids…and teaching seemed like a good way to effect change.” (Jack)

Concern with math achievement of others l.jpg

  • “During discussions with my classmates, I was surprised to discover how many told me they began their dislike for Math during their Middle School years. This began my drive to become a Middle School Math teacher. This is an important developmental stage for students, during which their ability to think abstractly should be fostered rather than hindered.” (Sandy)

  • “The level of math was very, very low, no? For that particular grade level, see because I don’t know, but always compared with my own experience, so I was always thinking that math in high school has to be completely high, no? High, high school, this is high math, but no, kids were in the level of pre-algebra or less than that, so there was really a lot of work to do with them…. Students were really struggling with math, especially in the Algebra course and I had the opportunity to use my math knowledge to improve students’ understanding.” (Rogelio)

  • “I’ve always had a fascination with helping younger people understanding things they didn’t understand. … I choose math because it is something I could do. I had a tough time with math in junior high school and I felt like more could have been done to help me understand it.” (Jack)

Results l.jpg

  • Some factors from prior work were corroborated

    • Experience in “teacher-like” activities

    • Interest in working with young people

    • Interest in subject matter

  • Some factors were explicated more richly

    • Influence of teachers is both + and –

    • Experiences with math include failure, challenges

  • Factors unique to this group

    • Experiences as immigrant or first-generation in the U.S.

    • Concern with math achievement of others

    • Availability of mathematics teaching jobs

Conclusions l.jpg

  • Decision to teach primarily intrinsically motivated

    • Based on elements of identity

      • Experiences as learner

      • Interest in subject matter

      • Experiences in and concern for society

  • Recruitment Efforts

    • Target those in informal teaching settings

    • Reach out to recent immigrants with significant math knowledge

    • Emphasize availability of math teaching jobs

  • Teacher preparation

    • Build on already strong motivation to impact students

    • Strengthen positive experiences as learners of mathematics

    • Develop recognition of role of mathematics coursework in educational stratification (e.g., unequal distribution of opportunities to learn)

References 1 l.jpg

  • Andrews, P., & Hatch, G. (2002). Initial motivations of serving teachers of secondary mathematics. Evaluation and Research in Education, 16(4), 185-201.

  • Baldacci, L., Johnson, S. M., & Project on the Next Generation of Teachers. (2006). Why new teachers leave…and why new teachers stay. American Educator. Retrieved September 26, 2006 from http://www.aft.org/pubs-reports/american_educator/issues/summer06/Teacher.pdf.

  • California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. (2003). California mathematics initiative for teaching: A report to the legislature. Commission Report 03-01. Sacramento, CA: Author.

  • Darling-Hammond, L., & Berry, B. (1999). Recruiting teachers for the 21st century: The foundation for educational equity. Journal of Negro Education, 68(3), 254-279.

  • Esch, C. E., Chang-Ross, C. M., Guha, R., Humphrey, D. C., Shields, P. M., Tiffany-Morales, J. D., Wechsler, M. E., and Woodworth, K. R. (2005). The status of the teaching profession 2005. Santa Cruz, CA: The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning.

  • Hammond, M. (2002). Why teach? A case study investigating the decision to train to teach ICT. Journal of Education for Teaching, 28(2), 135-148.

References 2 l.jpg

  • Johnson, S. M., & Birkeland, S. E. (2002). Pursuing a ‘sense of success’: New teachers explain their career decisions. Paper presented at American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA.

  • Lyons, G. (1981). Teacher careers and career perceptions in the secondary comprehensive school. Windsor, UK: NFER-Nelson.

  • National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (2006). Why be a math teacher? Accessed August 5, 2006 from http://www.nctm.org/teachmath/consider.htm

  • Public Agenda. (2000). A sense of calling: Who teaches and why. New York: Public Agenda

  • Southern California Consortium on Research in Education [SCCORE]. (2005 July). The conditions of K-12 education in the Los Angeles region. Retrieved March 16, 2007 from http://sccore.org/2005/teachersandstaff/tchrdemographics.shtml.

  • Swofford, S. W. (2002). Coded correspondence 02-0024. Sacramento, CA: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.