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Math Teacher Career Guide

A math teacher instructs students in the broad field of mathematics. This can include general math and/or any of the fields within mathematics such as algebra, geometry, statistics, and calculus. Math teachers are considered STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teachers. STEM education has seen a surge in recent years as these subjects are thought to be essential for developing future leaders who are able to compete in an increasingly complex world. This guide provides further information on what math teachers do, how to become one, and the salary and job outlook for prospective math teachers.

Math Teacher Job Description

Math teachers create lesson plans to instruct their students in general or specialized subjects within mathematics. They prepare math assignments, homework, and tests to impart knowledge and understanding to their students. They also assess students’ progress and abilities throughout the school year. As math is part of the core curriculum in K-12 public schools, math teachers must keep up with changes in state guidelines and objectives for math learning to help students meet the established criteria. Math teachers commonly lead multiple classes throughout the day, with students learning different subjects at ability levels from beginner to advanced placement. Math teachers typically work in public or private middle or high schools, as well as in postsecondary schools (colleges and universities). At lower levels, math is typically taught by elementary teachers who teach all subjects.

Math Teacher Requirements and Common Tasks

Becoming a math teacher usually requires a bachelor’s degree in mathematics or secondary education and completion of a teacher preparation program. Instructors also must earn state teacher certification through a traditional or alternative pathway. Math teachers may be required to supervise study halls, homerooms, extracurricular activities, or field trips. They may also provide academic and career advising to students. Most math teachers will participate in workshops and conferences to keep their own advanced math and math education skills current. Teachers commonly also tutor students after hours who are struggling in their subject.

Mathematics teachers should possess strong math skills and knowledge and be able to communicate math principles effectively to their students. Math teachers need patience and understanding in order to promote students’ critical thinking skills and ability to utilize math in everyday life. Math teachers’ jobs can be very rewarding as they play a vital role in encouraging intellectual development.

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How to Become a Math Teacher

The most common track to becoming a math teacher is earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics that includes a state-approved teacher preparation program. Students will typically take two years of general education courses as well as lower-level math courses prior to applying to the teacher preparation program in the junior year of study. They will then take advanced math courses along with teacher education courses. Keep in mind that math teachers in private schools may not be required to be certified, so check with your schools of interest to ensure you meet those schools’ unique requirements. The common steps to becoming a math teacher in a K-12 public school are as follows:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in math or a subfield of math that includes a state-approved teacher preparation program.
  2. Complete a student teaching internship in math at the grade level(s) where you wish to become certified.
  3. Pass your state’s required tests for teachers.
  4. Apply for your teaching credential.
  5. Begin applying to open math teacher positions.

People who would like to become teachers and have already earned an undergraduate degree in math but did not complete a teacher preparation program may be eligible for certification through an alternative route to teacher licensing, which may also include a master’s degree program. Prospective educators looking to teach advanced math, such as calculus, or math at the postsecondary level typically must earn at least a master’s degree (sometimes a doctoral degree in mathematics. Math 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

Even in school districts where teachers must instruct in more than one subject, math majors are in high demand – according to the US Department of Education, in the 2016-2017 school year 45 states reported statewide mathematics teacher shortages in at least one grade level. Nationwide, elementary school teachers earn a median annual salary of $57,980.1 Middle school teachers earn a median annual salary of $58,600.2 At the high school level, teachers earn a median annual salary of $60,320.3 Teachers at all levels are expected to see job growth of 3-4% through 2028.1,2,3 Math teacher jobs are available for general and specialized instructors in both public and private schools. Middle and high school math teachers can usually increase their annual salary potential by accruing experience and/or additional education. Postsecondary teachers in mathematical science earn a median salary of $$73,230 per year.4

Math Teacher Career Interviews

Teacher Quote: “Making math engaging is all a matter of bringing as much clarity to the concepts and procedures as possible. Lots of that has to do with understanding what will bring students to the idea that, yes, they can get it wrong, but if they persist and keep trying, we can arrive at the correct solutions, no matter how many solutions there are.” -Jose Vilson, New York Math Teacher and TEDx Speaker

Helpful Skills and Experience

Math teachers who pursue graduate degrees 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. In addition to strong mathematics knowledge, teachers of math should have the ability to translate sometimes dense mathematical knowledge to learners at all levels of understanding.

Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

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 in the public school system, you must have a four-year college degree with a major or minor in math or a subfield of math. You must also complete a teacher preparation program and pass a test for certification. In most states, you will also have to show competency in math by passing a subject area test. Private high school math teachers may not have the same requirements as these vary by school.

Question: Can I earn a master teacher certification as a math teacher?

Answer: Master or professional teacher certification is not offered in all states. In states where it is offered, math teachers are candidates if they can demonstrate advanced knowledge of their subject area, the ability to lead students in successful learning, and three to five 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 or master’s degree in math.5 There are shortages of qualified math teachers in many areas of the US, providing career opportunities for prospective teachers who are willing to relocate.5 Math teachers willing to teach in urban or rural school districts may find additional opportunities.1-3

Question: How much do math teachers make?

Answer: The amount of money a math teacher makes depends on a variety of factors, including grade level taught, educational background, years of experience, location, and type of school, the amount of money a math teacher makes. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for middle school and high school teachers of all subjects is between $58,600 and $60,320.2,3

Question: What is STEM education and why is it important?

Answer: STEM teachers educate students in the broad subjects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. As such, math teachers are an integral part of STEM education. According to the US Department of Education, STEM is important to education because the concepts taught within these subjects prepare students to be able to solve problems, evaluate information, and use evidence to drive decision-making, helping to develop them into future leaders.

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Middle School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, High School Teachers https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Postsecondary Teachers https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm
5. US Department of Education, Teacher Shortage Areas Nationwide Listing 1990–1991 through 2017–2018: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/pol/tsa.pdf