By Murray Siegel
The Maricopa school system (MUSD) is in the process of hiring 50 teachers to fill positions created by the passing of the override in November. Many of these teachers will be working in elementary classrooms.
This is the third in a series of columns about the preparation of elementary mathematics teachers. The first discussed the importance of the teaching of math during the elementary grades and included responses from two new MUSD teachers. The second article examined how Northern Arizona University prepares future elementary teachers to teach math from the point of view of two math-education faculty. This installment investigates how some future elementary teachers see their mathematics education.
Students were asked to write brief essays about their NAU math-education courses. One wrote, “I feel that many pre-service elementary teachers have a poor attitude about math because they often reflect on their poor experiences when they were learning math. My courses have taught me methods that will help those students who may struggle with certain concepts.”
Another student admitted, “As a student myself who has struggled significantly in mathematics, I can relate to these feelings of fear and lack of confidence. However, I have conquered the majority of those fears and I have developed a sense of confidence in my ability to do mathematics.”
Another student wrote, “I imagine it will still be difficult to teach to students. I think that because I was not fond of math when I was in school I have a preconceived notion that all students are going to hate math.”
These students are typical of many future elementary teachers in their lack of confidence in being able to teach math, and the university recognizes this challenge. Its content and methods courses do a significant job at helping students overcome their math-phobia.
A fourth student wrote, “At NAU, pre-service elementary teachers are given a multitude of resources that create a level of comfort and confidence in future educators.”
Another student echoed this sentiment when talking about the math methods course: “This class was the exact class we needed to boost our confidence and help prepare us for becoming teachers. This course has gotten me excited about becoming a math teacher.”
Dozens of student responses were received and the quotes included in this article are typical of the sentiment expressed by these future elementary teachers. Anyone who cares about the learning occurring in MUSD elementary schools should hope that many of the new teachers will have taken these classes.
Murray Siegel has a PhD in MathEd and 42 years of teaching experience. He and his wife Sharon are volunteer teachers of advanced math classes at Butterfield Elementary School.
This column appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.