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EDUCATION CAREER GUIDES

Math Teacher Career

Reviewed by David Bell (Ed.D., M.A., B.S.), Former Director of Academic Programs & Associate Dean for Advanced Programs, School of Education

OVERVIEW

What Is a Math Teacher?


 

Students need good mathematics teachers to help them grasp important concepts and find a love for mathematics. There are math teachers at every level of education from grade school all the way through high school. A math teacher helps students learn the concepts they’ll need to progress and take more advanced math classes in the future. For instance, a pre-algebra teacher has a great responsibility to prepare students for algebra, just as a pre-calculus teacher should teach their students the preliminary concepts and formulas that’ll get them ready for calculus.

Students learn mathematics in many grade levels, from the time they are in kindergarten all the way through high school and beyond. So it’s extremely important that they have good math teachers who can help them crack the code of math, preparing them for each new concept and level of learning. Many professions require a great understanding of math, and even if a student goes into a profession that doesn’t rely on mathematics, they will need to know and understand it for their daily life.

RESPONSIBILITIES

What Does a Math Teacher Do?

The main role of a mathematics teacher is to teach lessons to students that help them learn mathematical concepts and understand the connections between abstract concepts and real-world problems. They help students build on their existing knowledge to continue to learn more advanced math concepts.

Every math teacher has to:

  • Organize and manage their classroom. Maintaining order in the classroom is one of the key roles of a teacher and it plays a big role in each student’s ability to learn. 
  • Incorporate best practices and establish teaching goals. Math teachers work with their department colleagues and administrators to continually grow and improve their teaching.
  • Plan lessons that align with teaching goals and standards. Everything that a math teacher presents to students in their lesson plans should align to specific goals and state standards for education. 
  • Assign homework. It takes a lot of work outside of the classroom for students to get better at math. Homework should help cement the skills they’re learning in class.
  • Grade exams and assignments. Much of a math teacher’s team is spent grading. It’s critical for students to understand what they’re not grasping so they can learn and improve. 
  • Determine grading standards and issue final grades. Teachers should take time to decide on grading standards and be fair when issuing final grades. Students should have a clear understanding of what’s expected.
  • Stay up-to-date on mathematics teaching standards and requirements. Every math teacher should know which skills their students need to master in order to advance. Teachers should be learning the latest strategies to help students learn.
  • Work one-on-one with students who may need additional help. Personal tutoring plays a key role in student progress, particularly in math. Holding office hours before or after school can help students who need extra support. 
  • Administer state-specific tests to gauge student progress. Often math teachers are required by the state to issue certain tests. Using these tests to determine student proficiency and making teaching adjustments and recommendations where needed are critical parts of a teacher’s job.

Meet with parents to assess what students need. Some students struggle because they have a hard time focusing. Others just aren’t grasping a specific concept. Teachers work closely with the parents of struggling students to determine what can be done to help them succeed.

Math Concepts Taught by Grade

Elementary

Elementary school students learn basic math concepts including:

  • Addition and subtraction
  • Multiplication and division
  • Fractions 
  • Prime numbers 
  • Percents 
  • Decimals
  • Basic geometry and pre-algebra

Middle School

Middle school students build on many foundational concepts learned in elementary school including fractions, decimals, and percents. They’ll also learn how to:

  • Master intermediate and advanced geometry and algebra
  • Solve equations and inequalities, 
  • Find the area of shapes, and learn 
  • Graph linear equations and inequalities

High School

High school students often learn more advanced math concepts and take higher-level courses. They learn about quadratic equations, derivatives, integrals, and often statistics. Many high schools offer advanced placement (AP) classes that give students the chance to prepare for and pass a test to earn college credit. Common high school math courses include: 

  • Advanced algebra
  • Pre-calculus
  • Calculus AB
  • Calculus BC
  • Statistics 

EDUCATION & BEST DEGREES

How Do I Become a Math Teacher?

There are specific educational requirements for all teachers and it’s important to understand what educational plans you need to make in order to be qualified to teach math at the elementary, middle, or high school level. 

Education to become an elementary school math teacher

All elementary school teachers will need a bachelor’s degree in order to teach. For many states, a bachelor’s degree in elementary education is required or preferred for teaching. However, if you already have a bachelor’s degree you can pursue a master’s degree in elementary education that will license you to teach. Similarly, teachers may see great value in pursuing a master’s degree even after getting their bachelor’s degree in elementary education. A master’s degree can open up doors to higher pay, a chance to stand out from the competition, and more. Elementary school teachers will learn about their specific math training in a degree program, as well as classroom management skills and the other subjects that they will be required to teach.

Education to become a middle school math teacher

Middle school teachers also have a requirement for a bachelor’s degree in order to teach, and a middle school math degree program is often the ideal choice. Middle school math teachers can also earn a master’s degree to qualify them for certification, or to help give them opportunities to boost their salary and become a leader in their subject at their school. In their degree program, they will learn about the math concepts they will be teaching, how to run a classroom, and more. 

Education to become a high school math teacher

High school math teachers are the same as elementary and middle school math teachers in that they have a requirement for a bachelor’s degree in order to teach. A secondary degree program gives teachers the opportunity to teach in middle school up to high school, allowing teachers more freedom to choose exactly which kind of subjects and students they want to teach. Their degree program will teach them extensive math training on different subjects, as well as an understanding of how to work with students and help them succeed. 

Math teacher licensing and certification

All teachers must have the proper state certification in order to teach. For elementary school teachers, there is a specific elementary teaching certification that they will need in order to teach. Similarly, teachers of secondary students will need certification in order to be qualified to teach. Each state has a unique licensing process, and Program Mentors can help WGU students learn about the licensing process for their state.

Best Degrees for Math Teachers

Mathematics Education (Middle Grades) – B.S.

An online teacher certification program for aspiring middle school math...

An online teacher certification program for aspiring middle school math teachers. Leads to teaching license in states that have a middle-grades math teaching license.

Specific grade levels will vary depending on teaching licensure in your state.

  • Time: 62% of grads earned this degree within 29 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,825 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 39 total courses in this program.

Candidates for this science teaching degree program often include:

  • Aspiring junior high math teachers who currently lack a teaching license
  • Substitute teachers
  • Career-changers with a passion for math
  • School paraprofessionals
  • Others who feel the call to teach

This science teaching degree program includes requires in-classroom observation and a term of full-time student teaching. This science teaching degree prepares you to be eligible for a teaching license in any of the 50 states.

Mathematics Education (K–6) – M.A.

An online master's degree for current teachers who want to specialize in...

An online master's degree for current teachers who want to specialize in teaching math to elementary school students.

  • Time: 82% of grads earned this degree within 18 months.
  • Tuition: $3,975 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 10 total courses in this program.

This program is for current teachers who are looking to add K-6 math education to their license.

Graduates of this program are qualified to teach in a variety of schools including:

  • Inclusionary K–12 classrooms
  • Middle/junior high schools
  • High schools
  • Private and charter schools

Focus your teaching passion on instilling in elementary-age students a love of math with this education master's degree.

Teaching, Mathematics Education (Middle Grades) – M.A.

An online teaching master's degree and teacher certification program for...

An online teaching master's degree and teacher certification program for aspiring middle school math teachers who already have a bachelor's degree in a non-teaching field.

Leads to teacher licensure. Specific grade levels will vary depending on licensure in your state.

  • Time: 66% of graduates finish this middle school math teaching degree within 24 months.
  • Tuition: $3,975 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 22 total courses in this program.

Candidates for this master's in math education degree often include:

  • Aspiring junior high math teachers who currently hold a bachelor's degree but lack a teaching license
  • Substitute teachers
  • Career-changers with a passion for math
  • School paraprofessionals
  • Others who feel the call to teach

This M.A. Teaching program in middle grades math education requires in-classroom observation and a term of full-time student teaching. It differs from the M.A. Teaching, Mathematics Education (Secondary) program in that it does not require courses in upper levels of calculus, including advanced calculus and mathematical modeling. The curriculum of this online math degree is designed to prepare middle school math teachers for success.

Mathematics Education (Secondary) – B.S.

An online teaching degree and teacher certification program for aspiring...

An online teaching degree and teacher certification program for aspiring middle school math teachers and high school math teachers.

Leads to teacher licensure. Specific grade levels will vary depending on licensure in your state.

  • Time: 63% of grads earned this degree within 27 months.
  • Tuition: $3,825 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 44 total courses in this program.

Candidates for this math teaching degree program often include:

  • Aspiring junior high and high school math teachers who currently lack a teaching license
  • Substitute teachers
  • Career-changers with a passion for math
  • School paraprofessionals
  • Others who feel the call to teach

This online math teaching degree program requires in-classroom observation and a term of full-time student teaching. This online math teaching degree program helps students become eligible for math teaching certification.

How Much Does a Math Teacher Make?

$62,870

Teachers of different ages and subjects will earn different amounts. Math teachers tend to be some of the highest-paid teachers compared to other subjects, as there is usually a shortage of teachers for this subject. 

-Elementary school teachers earn an average annual salary of around $60,660 per year.

-Middle school teachers can expect to earn a similar average annual salary of over $60,810 per year. 

-High school teachers can expect to earn a little bit more, with their average annual salary sitting at $62,870 per year.

The salary a teacher can earn will vary depending on the grade level they teach, the state they teach in, and the amount of education they have. Many teachers can expect a raise if they earn a master’s degree. The years of experience they have will likely impact their salary level.

What Is the Projected Job Growth?

8%

The job outlook for math teachers is good. At the high school level, the market is projected to grow at 8% from 2020 to 2030. This is on pace with the average for other jobs. The elementary school level is similar, with a 7% projected growth over the same period. The same holds true for middle school math teachers.

SKILLS

What Skills Does a Math Teacher Need?

Students need good mathematics teachers to help them grasp important concepts and find a love for mathematics. Good math teachers are patient, understanding, thorough, and care about their students. They have a love for math and want to share that love with their students. Math is all about understanding how things work, and mathematics teachers are great at explaining in many ways, helping students practice, and encouraging them along the way.

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