Want better math teachers? Train them better, says MSU scholar

Jun 09, 2011
The United States needs better-trained math teachers if the nation is going to compete globally, Michigan State University education expert Bill Schmidt argues in the research journal Science. Credit: Michigan State University

It's time for the United States to consider establishing higher standards for math teachers if the nation is going to break its "vicious cycle" of mediocrity, a Michigan State University education scholar argues in Science magazine.

As American students continue to be outpaced in mathematics by pupils in countries such as Russia and Taiwan, William Schmidt recommends adopting more rigorous, demanding and internationally benchmarked teacher-preparation standards for teachers.

"Our research shows that current teacher-preparation programs for middle-school math instructors in the United States do not produce teachers with an internationally competitive level of mathematics knowledge," said Schmidt, a University Distinguished Professor and co-director of MSU's Education Policy Center.

Schmidt makes his argument in an "education forum" paper in the June 10 edition of Science, one of the world's preeminent science research journals. MSU researchers Richard Houang and Leland Cogan co-authored the paper.

Current standards for are established on a state-by-state level. Schmidt suggests the states could come together to establish more rigorous and uniform standards, similar to the Common Core State Standards Initiative for K-12 students.

That initiative, which establishes more rigorous math and English-Language Arts standards for students, is led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Thus far, 42 states have adopted the common .

But students can't get better at math if their instructors aren't fully prepared to teach them, Schmidt noted.

"Weak K-12 math curricula taught by teachers with an inadequate mathematics background produce high school graduates who are similarly weak," Schmidt said. "A long-term and better solution is to break the vicious cycle of mediocrity in which we find ourselves."

Schmidt led the U.S. portion of the Teacher Education Study in Mathematics, or TEDS-M, by far the largest study of its kind, surveying more than 3,300 future teachers in the and 23,244 future teachers across 16 countries.

Explore further: Liberal democracy is possible in Muslim-majority countries

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Inconsistent math curricula hurting US students, study finds

May 02, 2011

A new study finds important differences in math curricula across U.S. states and school districts. The findings, published in the May issue of the American Journal of Education, suggest that many students across the countr ...

Enhanced math instruction proposed

Oct 19, 2006

Researchers say U.S. high school pupils taking vocational classes with enhanced math instruction do better on standardized math tests than other students.

Hold the Calculators: Let's Talk About Math!

Aug 03, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Many children, when learning to read, are encouraged by their teachers to retell all they remember about a story in order to build their comprehension skills. But can similar comprehension strategies be applied ...

Recommended for you

Feeling bad at work can be a good thing

21 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Research by the University of Liverpool suggests that, contrary to popular opinion, it can be good to feel bad at work, whilst feeling good in the workplace can also lead to negative outcomes.

3Qs: Citizen journalism in Ferguson

22 hours ago

Tensions have escalated in Ferguson, Missouri, following the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, by a white police officer. The incident has led to peaceful protests ...

Social inequality worsens in New Zealand

22 hours ago

Research by Dr Lisa Marriott, an associate professor in Victoria's School of Accounting and Commercial Law, and Dr Dalice Sim, Statistical Consultant in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research, builds ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

GeneMac
not rated yet Jun 09, 2011
Our educational system has been doing the same old thing for many generations. They are so set in their ways that nothing will get them to change. Even when faced with newer ways to do something they go back to their classroom and go on as if they never heard what was said.