This article examines the current state of math instruction for would-be teachers and discusses the degree to which this may be a factor in low student achievement on standardized math tests.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):


Key Questions to Explore:

  • Why are student math scores so low?
  • To what degree does teacher competence in math affect these results?
  • Why is there not standardized instruction in math for teachers-to-be?

New Terminology:


Materials Needed:

Copies of the article for the students

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

Low student math scores have been a concern. Despite focus on this issue, the scores have not improved. Many studies have been conducted to determine the reasons and a myriad factors have been identified. These have ranged from blaming the curriculum, to teachersā€™ lack of competence in teaching math, to a misplaced focus on pedagogy and not focusing on math skills. This article examines the wide-ranging approaches used by various teacher colleges in preparing teachers to teach mathematics and suggests what needs to be done. This lesson will have the students explore this issue and to discuss what they believe are the contributing factors to low math scores. In doing so, they will also explore the challenges faced by teachers in teaching math (and, as a carryover, other subjects). This activity will help them decide if a career in teaching is something they would like to explore.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Begin the lesson by asking the students how many of them like math.
  • Ask both those who responded positively and those who responded negatively for their reasons.
  • Indicate to them that there is concern on a national level about low math scores on standardized tests and ask them to offer reasons they believe this to be so.
  • Ask them to indicate how they felt about math when they were in grade school and, without being critical of their teachers, indicate if they thought their teachers liked math and teaching it.
  • With this as background, arrange the class in triads (groups of three) and provide a copy of the article to the students.
  • Allow them time to read it and ask the triads to discuss their reaction to what they have just read and to discuss the degree to which they believe the wide discrepancies in teacher preparation contribute to the low math scores.
  • Have each group report its ideas to the class.
  • Ask the triads to now list what challenges they believe teachers face in teaching any subject to students ā€“ both in elementary school and high school.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Have each group report its list of challenges to the class and look for any common items.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students will be able to:

  • Identify the national concern about low math scores;
  • Explain the contribution that teacher preparation courses might make to this situation;
  • Outline some of the challenges faced by teachers in teaching any subject;
  • Indicate, given these challenges, whether or not they would consider teaching as a career.

Confirming Activity:

  • Hold a plenary session during which the students could discuss teaching as a possible career, given the identified challenges, while outlining what they believe are the positive aspects to a career in teaching.