Math Teacher Career Guide
A math teacher instructs students in the broad field of mathematics. This can include general math or any of the related courses of algebra, calculus, or geometry. This guide provides further information on what math teachers do, how to become a math teacher, and math teacher salary and outlook.
Math Teacher Job Description
Math teachers create lesson plans to instruct their students in general or specialized subject mathematics. They prepare math assignments, homework, and tests to impart knowledge and understanding. They also assess student’s progress and abilities throughout the school year. As math is considered part of the core curriculum, math teachers must keep abreast of changes in state guidelines and objectives for math learning to help students meet the established criteria. Math teachers commonly lead multiple classes learning different subjects at different student ability levels, from beginning algebra to advanced placement math courses.
Math Teacher Requirements and Common Tasks
Becoming a math teacher requires a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education, with completion of any necessary student teaching. Instructors also must be licensed by their respective state board of education and hold a subject area endorsement in math unless an exception has been granted. Math teachers may be required to supervise study halls or home rooms, extracurricular activities or field trips. They may also provide assistance to students in choosing further courses of study in high school or college. Most math teachers will participate in workshops and conferences to keep their own advanced math skills current. Teachers of math may also assist struggling students with tutoring before or after school or during study halls.
Mathematics teachers should possess strong skills and knowledge and must be able to communicate math principles effectively to their students, be they elementary, secondary or post-secondary. Math teachers’ jobs can be very rewarding; they play a vital role in encouraging intellectual development, which can be key to determining the future for some students. Math teachers need patience, skill and understanding in order to achieve the goal of adequately instructing and preparing students with the mathematics knowledge necessary to develop critical thinking skills and utilize math in aspects of everyday life.
How to Become a Math Teacher
The two most common tracks to becoming a math teacher are earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics supplemented by teacher training courses or earning a bachelor’s degree in education with a major or concentration in teaching math. In either case, the minimum qualification of a bachelor’s degree to earn a license to teach in public schools must be met. Prospective teachers who have already earned an undergraduate degree in math may return to school in a teacher preparation program, such as a master’s degree in education, to earn their teaching certification.
The courses required depend on the grade level(s) that the prospective math teacher wishes to teach, but in most cases additional courses will be required in order to earn certification at the elementary and middle school levels. Prospective educators looking to teach advanced math or math at the post-secondary level typically must earn at least a master’s degree in mathematics. Teachers at all levels should anticipate taking continuing education courses, including courses in math, in order to retain a high working knowledge of mathematical theory.
Math Teacher Salary and Job Outlook
Although at the elementary school level teachers typically must instruct in more than one subject, math majors are in demand in elementary schools. Elementary school math teachers earn an average annual salary of $53,090 and have job growth prospects of 12% between 2012 and 2022.1 Middle school math teachers earn an average annual salary of $53,430 and have similar job growth prospects.2 At the high school level, teachers earn an average annual salary of $55,050, and have projected job growth of 6% between 2012 and 2022.3 Math teacher jobs are available for general and specialized instructors in both public and private schools. Elementary, middle and high school math teachers may advance and increase their annual salary by accruing years of experience or additional education.
Helpful Skills and Experience
Math teachers who pursue graduate credentials are typically considered to be more highly qualified, and are thus more in demand in the current job market. Pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree or other graduate certificates can help math teachers hone their skills in mathematics and pedagogy and find additional career opportunities. Student teaching and tutoring experiences are also helpful to aspiring math teachers. In addition to strong mathematics knowledge, teachers of math should have the ability to translate mathematical knowledge to learners at all levels of understanding.
The Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics are two leading associations for math teachers. Members of these organizations receive guidance on state and national education standards, access to lesson plans and class materials, and professional development conferences and meetings. Many state level organizations for math teachers offer similar state-specific opportunities.
Math Teacher Interviews
See our career interviews for insights and advice on teaching math.
Interview with Scott Keltner, Kansas Teacher of the Year Nominee
Interview with Jose Vilson, New York Math Teacher and Co-Author of TEDx Speaker
Interview with Lorrie Quirk, President of the Associated Mathematics Teachers in Connecticut
Interview with Professor Joanne Becker, President of the California Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators
Interview with Catherine Martin, President of the Colorado Council of Teachers of Mathematics
Math Education Teaching Degrees and Programs
Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a Math Teacher
Question: What are the high school math teacher requirements?
Answer: The requirements for being a teacher vary by state. As a general requirement, to be a high school math teacher you must have a college degree with a major or minor in math. You must also complete a teacher preparation program and pass a test for certification. For most states, you will also have to show competency in math by passing a subject area test.
Question: Can I earn a master teacher certification as a math teacher?
Answer: Most states that offer a master teacher certification include math teachers as strong candidates for the credential. Depending on the state, a master teacher should have advanced knowledge of his or her subject area, a demonstrated ability to lead students in successful learning, and a few years’ of teaching experience. Earning this credential can lead to higher salaries and expanded career opportunities for math teachers.
Question: What are career prospects like for math teachers?
Answer: Math teachers are in demand at all grade levels, especially highly qualified math teachers who have completed a major in math supplemented by courses in teaching. In many areas of the country there are shortages of qualified math teachers, providing career opportunities for prospective teachers who are willing to relocate. Math teachers willing to teach in urban or rural school districts may find additional opportunities.
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics – Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics – Middle School Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm
3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics – High School Teachers http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm