Research, Research, Research: Future Math Teachers

For the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring research on education. This week, we’re taking a look at a study on math teachers.

Read the full New York Times article, U.S. Falls Short on Measures of Future Math Teachers, by Sam Dillon.

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Here’s our report…

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THE RESEARCH

The researchers: William H. Schmidt (lead author), Michigan State University

The questions: How do American future math teachers fare in their knowledge compared to math teachers around the world? *

The abstract: (52 page report in 1 sentence) American future math teachers “earned a C on a new test.” Basically, according to the report, we have really average math teachers.

The countries: (16 total) Botswana, Chile, Georgia, Germany, Malaysia, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Russian Federation, Singapore, Span, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, USA

The numbers: 3,300 future math teachers at 81 colleges and universities in the U.S.

THE RESULTS

Test Scores of Future Elementary School Teachers

Score

Countries

Scored well above the USA Singapore, Switzerland and Taiwan

Scores compare to the USA

Germany, Norway, Russia, Thailand and USA

Scored well below the USA

Botswana, Chile, Georgia, Malaysia, Philippines, Poland and Spain.

Also, math and teaching knowledge varied widely across the 81 institutions, and some students score at the level of peers in Botswana.

THE PITFALLS

Dr. Gage Kingsbury, a senior research fellow at the Northwest Evaluation Association notes that the research does not evaluate most of Europe and “to suggest that you can’t be a good middle school math teacher unless you’ve taken calculus is a leap, because calculus isn’t taught in middle school. So I think they overreach a bit.”

WHY WE CARE

The United States may be a developed country, but we lag behind in some key predictors of success, such as education and math scores. While the results are “acceptable,” other “educationally advanced” countries, like Singapore, Switzerland and Taiwan, have much more prepared teachers.

Also, while there are many wonderful aspects of the American higher education system, the lack of standardization means that the value of a teaching degree may vary widely based on the student’s home institution.

* As phrased by the author of this blog, not the researchers

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One Response to Research, Research, Research: Future Math Teachers

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