Im looking at going back to school and getting a post bacc certification to teach secondary math. I graduated with an engineering degree in 1996 (yes I’m old). For certification I’m only required to take abstract algebra and History of Math. All other math requirements are satisfied with my engr. degree. I haven’t used much math since school (although I have been subbing in lots of math classes the last couple of years). I would need to do lots of review. I also need to get a score of 170. Is this a crazy idea to think I can pass the Praxis 5161? Thanks for any help!

Abstract Algebra is a beast for most people who have never taken a proof-based maths course. I did very well in that, but I majored in math. History of Math is misleading in that you don’t just learn about how math originated and developed through the years, but you learn the old math methods, as well. The course is very much mathematical and involves many, many proofs. The Praxis 5161 is certainly doable for me and mostly tests you on Algebra, Geometry, Trig, a little bit of Stats, and Calculus. Since you were an engineering major, I think you should do fine as a lot of your classes were mathematical in nature. You might want to buy a prep book at least because you may have forgotten some things, but they should return to you with practice. I would recommend that you study extensively if you were a non-STEM major, but you should do fine with a little studying and using a prep book and/or YouTube videos. To demonstrate, I studied for all of 1-2 hours tops just looking over the practice test for the Praxis 5161 on the ETS website and got a 194/200 on the first attempt. Personally, I thought it was easier than the Single Subject Math CSETs.

Thank you. I purchased a book on proofs. I plan to go through that before I take the courses. Im also reviewing Calculus online via Khan academy and a free Harvard course (although I got sidetracked brushing up on Trig). I didn’t look into History of Math course description yet. Based on what you say, I’m glad I’m going through this proof book for that as well. I’ve always enjoyed math and was good at it. Although, I’m certainly not a math genius. I really appreciate your feedback! - Leslie

I was in a similar boat a few years ago. I was a computer science major in 1993 and after nearly twenty years at home with my kids, I decided to go back to school and teach math. I admit it took me 3 tries to pass the Praxis 5161, and my state has a lower passing score, but I did it. My problem was that I had only taken calculus in college. After two attempts, I took a couple of math classes I needed anyway, elementary stats and linear algebra, which happened to be the two subject covered by the test that I'd never taken. Then I took it again and passed. I just graduated in May with an MEd and was offered a job last week. I won't lie to you, it was HARD going back to school after twenty years, but I did it, and I know you can too!

Thank you for responding. Congrats on your job offer and completion of MEd. What an accomplishment! How long did it take you to get your MEd? Where did you go? I’m assuming you had to review everything (trig, calc, geometry...)? Im reviewing calculus and found that I have to go back and review other concepts that my brain has forgotten (trig identities....). Sometimes I feel like I’m going down many rabbit holes of review. Thanks! - Leslie

I live in Alabama and went to a local college that has an alternative masters program for students with an undergrad in something other than education. I had a math minor from my undergrad, so I had a leg up on what I needed. After the two classes I mentioned I had to take one more undergrad math class, then I took grad level classes in topics I'll never teach in high school. Our school does not actually have grad level math classes, so they put me in senior level classes, and the profs usually gave me an extra assignment or gave me a harder grading scale. One prof, and thankfully only one, gave me a grading scale so tough that anything below a 76 was an F. I failed that class, unfortunately, but still graduated with a 3.47 GPA. To study for the Praxis, I bought a review book and just went through it. I think the Linear Algebra class is what made the difference. I had not been exposed to that before, and the third time I took the test, I recognized Linear Algebra questions that I'd not known what to do with before. I also purchased the practice tests here before my second attempt. I took the 5161 when it was pretty new, and there weren't a lot of practice options yet. I'd say those practice tests were very helpful, even though I did have to take it one more time to pass. The owner of that website is very helpful if you need to email him. Good luck! Just noticed you asked how long it took. It took three years, plus one semester up front to take prereqs before finally passing the Praxis.

Thank you! Now comes the scary part. Walking into a class full of 9th grade math students one month from today and teaching them something useful!

You’ve got this. Remember to never assume that students know everything they should have learned in prior grades and learn to recognize when they will struggle. Yes, you want to encourage the use of academic language, but sometimes students need lay terms to understand. For example, take the Segment Addition Postulate. You would be surprised by how many students struggle with this concept at first. This is why I call on two student volunteers — one tall and one short — and have them stand at the front of the classroom. I then get a tape measure and measure the heights of the tall student and short student. Next, I ask the class how we can determine how much taller “Goliath” is than “David”. They immediately say subtract the difference. I then make it more challenging. I say, “What if I only measured Goliath and did not measure David’s height? What would be the difference in their heights now?” This isn’t so obvious, so some students can’t figure it out. This leads to a discussion about how we can model the difference algebraically and, while this is going on, I write down two vertical segments on the board, one representing the heights of the two students. I label the longer segment Goliath’s height in inches and I label David’s height “x”. The students quickly pick up that the difference in height is given by (Goliath’s height - x). After this, I introduce the Segment Addition Postulate and students understand it completely. That’s one of my many secrets. I almost always show a real-world example of a concept before I discuss the theory, so students can conceptualize it first as not all of them are abstract thinkers. They need something tangible to work with and you need to get into the habit of reaching all learners. I hope this helps and welcome to the wonderful world of mathematics!