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  • Writer's pictureReach University

Opinion: We Need More Math Teachers. Here’s How to Prepare Them for Life in the Classroom.

What do ninth-graders and preservice teachers have in common? “Math has not always come easy for them, and for many in both groups, learning math can be overwhelming,” writes Dr. Cicely Woodard, Reach University’s math faculty lead and Algebra 1 teacher in Missouri’s Kickapoo High School, in EdSurge. 


In “We Need More Math Teachers. Here's How to Prepare Them for Life in the Classroom,” Dr. Woodard outlines how to successfully “ensure that these preservice teachers know math content well and feel equipped and prepared to teach math to students,” in light of lower levels of adult learner math self-efficacy and high math anxiety, and continued pandemic-related unfinished math learning for K-12 students. 

In response, Dr. Woodard has led a 15 credit hour, immersive semester of math for all Reach undergraduates, where there is “an intentional focus on learning math content through a math reasoning course aligned to content that preservice teachers will see on the Praxis Elementary Education: Mathematics Subtest 5003, exploring math pedagogy through a math methods course, and practicing math teaching strategies with students on their jobs as paraprofessionals through a math placements course.”


The learnings from this immersive, single-subject semester include:

  1. Belonging matters in math class. Preservice teachers need to feel a sense of belonging in math class, even if they haven’t been successful at it in the past. When students feel connected to each other and the professor, walls are broken down and they are able to engage in the challenging work of learning math. Even as adults, knowing that others care about them helps them feel comfortable enough to learn.

  2. Math discourse impacts what and how preservice teachers learn. Talking about math opens up new perspectives. The preservice teachers in my class get to develop their own reasoning, justify their thinking and critique the reasoning of others. Communicating about math helps candidates compare strategies, broaden their thinking and develop their own questions. Discourse also reveals misconceptions; they make mistakes and realize that their mistakes are tools for learning.

  3. To deepen understanding and learning, professors must find ways to engage students in thinking. Learning math requires being allowed the time and the space to think critically about connections between concepts. During our math reasoning classes, we use various websites where students in our virtual environment can do the math, discuss their thinking, and ask questions. Desmos, Peardeck and Nearpod all have effective ways to increase engagement beyond lectures in a virtual environment. We must increase opportunities for thinking, not just mimicking in math class.


Read Dr. Woodard’s full opinion piece in EdSurge here, and learn more about Reach’s approach to training math confident educators here


Photo care of EdSurge

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