Smart enough to become a math teacher?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by fedfanforever11, Jun 14, 2011.

  1. fedfanforever11

    fedfanforever11 Rookie

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    Jun 14, 2011

    Hi, I'm a high school junior and I want to become a teacher. I'm debating between special ed and math, and ideally, I would probably like to become a special ed math teacher. But, I know this would require majoring in math, and I have heard that that is really hard.
    My math grades have not been stellar. I took honors math in 8th grade, and barely passed with a C-. Then, I took accelerated(not honors, but not CP) geo in 9th grade and got a B. I took Alg II last year and had major issues, which was mainly because I didn't try AT ALL :( I got a 27% on a test. So I passed that with a B-. This year, I'm taking accelerated trig, and I'm doing much better. I probably have a B plus/A minus, and the material has gotten harder. Also, accelerated classes at my school are harder/just has hard as honors classes at other schools- I attend one of the best schools at the country.
    My SAT math score was a 660, and my ACT math score was a 32. I suck at probability too. So yeah, do I have a chance to do well as a math major despite my struggles, or should i just give it up?
    thanks!
     
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  3. TheBagLady

    TheBagLady Rookie

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    Well, if you teach special ed. resource math (at least where I am in AZ) you only need the sp.ed. certification. I didn't do terribly well in upper grade math myself, but I love teaching it in the lower grades, so I am glad I went the elementary/sp.ed. route (very few math requirements). Any idea what grade would you like to teach math to?
     
  4. fedfanforever11

    fedfanforever11 Rookie

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    I would love to teach high school math, and probably a few special ed classes. I don't think I would want to do elementary special ed. You need normal math certification to teach special ed high school math to be highly qualified right?
     
  5. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    Can you pinpoint why and where you struggle in your math classes? I you can figure this out and go on to excel at math, your experience would probably make you a very effective teacher.
     
  6. fedfanforever11

    fedfanforever11 Rookie

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    Sometimes it's just stupid mistakes. I also struggle with probability and abstract questions that show up on the SAT- like logic based questions. I absolutely cannot do those.
    Also- for factoring, I don't know if this is a weakness, but I cannot look at an equation and quickly factor it. I have to use the "british method", which only takes me about 20 seconds but still.
    However, I'm great at stuff where you have a method to follow, I LOVE those problems. For example, I got a 98 on our law of cosines/sines test.
    Another reason why I want to teach math is because I struggled with it, and I do love the subject, so I want my students to have a positive experience with it.
     
  7. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Most states are beginning to require their special education teachers to have math certification if they teach math.
     
  8. fedfanforever11

    fedfanforever11 Rookie

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    Yeah, so are there any math teachers who can tell me, based on my SAT/ACT scores and grades, if I can get a degree in math? I'm willing to work hard, but I don't want it to have to tear my hair out.
     
  9. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    I think you could, but you will have to work at it.
     
  10. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Jun 14, 2011

    Most people who struggle with math are lacking some sort of fundamental understanding. For one reason or another, they've missed something important, something vital, that brings everything together. Sometimes, that leads to even more problems. Because that something has been missed, the person begins to struggle, those struggles leads that person to believe they are "bad" at math, which then leads to anxiety. That anxiety can sometimes be paralyzing.

    Think of it this way. When a builder breaks ground on a new high rise, the first thing he does is dig down. He digs out the foundation and then builds the support structures that will hold up the building. After that, he builds the rest of the tower. Floor by floor, the building goes up.

    What happens if the foundation is weak? What happens if the contractor setting the pilings cuts corners? What happens if they use substandard material on the lower floors? If any of that is weak, cracks begin to form. The building weakens. The upper floors can't hold the weight or bear the stress that they were designed to bear. Eventually, the building collapses.

    Math (or any subject, really) is a lot like that skyscraper. If any of your foundational skills are weak, then it becomes difficult, or impossible, to build on top of them. Material is introduced and you memorize a process, but because you lack that link in the foundation, a crack forms. You don't really understand, so you churn out a process without really knowing why you're doing it. When we then try to teach you something that needs that skill, it can become overwhelming.

    So, what do you do? You become your own restoration engineer. A structural engineer who specializes in restoring old buildings pours over the building looking for any cracks and weak points anywhere in the building, but particularly in the foundation. When he finds those weak points, he starts there. He fixes those, then works his way up.

    Sometimes, when a problem is found, and fixed in the lower levels, problems in the upper levels magically fix themselves. I can't tell you how many of my college prep students experienced that particular phenomenon. When we sort out some misunderstanding at some lower level, the light bulb goes of and the student exclaims "Oh, so THAT's why _______". It's truly an exciting thing to watch.

    If you really want to teach math, dig down. Work hard, going as far back as you need to, and slowly rebuild your foundation. As you do so, you'll have those light bulb moments. Some will be harder than others, but if you work at it, you'll get there eventually.

    One more thing. Always remember this: Nothing worth doing is easy. Things will get tough. Work your way though them. Even those of us who are "smart" and "good at math" had to work at it. I had many, many nights where I worked through the night to make sense of some topic or another. I had topics that took days or weeks to really sink in. I even had topics that I simply memorized, until years later, when, while working on some other topic, I finally put the pieces together.

    Oh, and one last thing. Go out and buy the book "Algebra Unplugged" by Jim Loats and Khen Ahmdal (I think that's how the second guy's name is spelled). It's a fabulous resource for any math student.
     
  11. fedfanforever11

    fedfanforever11 Rookie

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    thanks- i'll definately try to see if I'm missing part of my foundation.
    but i have to say, my absolute favorite part of math is understanding why something works- i think it's really interesting.
     
  12. fedfanforever11

    fedfanforever11 Rookie

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    Honestly, now that I think of it, the reason that I haven't done amazingly in math classes is because of lack of effort, which i greatly regret. I know I could have gotten A's in geo and alg II if I actually tried. My friend easily got an A in Alg II, and I'm doing better than her in trig this year.
    I'll be taking AP Calc next year, so I'll see how that goes.
     
  13. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    For what it's worth:

    I've been teaching math for 25 years. I spent some time as math department chairman of my school (before I quit to be home with my kids for 5 years) and am generally considered to be quite good at what I do.

    Yet I almost failed both Precalc and Calc in high school.

    I took 5 years of math in high school. (I doubled up on Geometry and Algebra II/Trig sophomore year. ) And I can honestly say that of those 5 years of math, I only had ONE good teacher. One was teaching only to avoid the draft-- in the 70's being a teacher could keep you from going to Vietnam. My trig teacher was brilliant, but totally unable to explain his way out of a paper bag. My Precalc and Calc teacher (same one) taught through terror-- I most certainly wasn't going to ask HER a question!

    I agree with mm-- make sure your foundation is strong. Make sure you know not only what to do, but why it works.

    And hang in there.
     
  14. fedfanforever11

    fedfanforever11 Rookie

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    Thanks everyone! You have given me hope :) I'll try to review my algebra I and II this summer.
    Also, for any math teachers, do you enjoy teaching the subject? What is the best part of it?
    Because a lot of people tell me that teaching math would get boring because there's no room for discussion, etc.
     
  15. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    OH, I love teaching math.

    I love the whole problem solving aspect to it-- the idea that logic and a process will take you from a question to a solution, and that there are no shades of grey.
     
  16. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    I second what Alice says, both about your current grades and about teaching math.

    I was going to point out earlier that high grades don't always mean the person will be a good teacher. It really may not even mean they know the content that well, unless it follows the exact formula in the book.

    I read an article years ago citing a survey of several corporate CEO's. Many of them said they would rather have a B/C applicant than a straight A applicant, because the straight A student was often very "book smart", but lacked the ability to apply the book learning to situations that didn't weren't textbook examples. They often had great memorization, but not always the knowledge of how to apply memorized data when situations didn't follow the correct formula or scenario. Students with B/C averages, on the other hand, weren't as good at memorizing volumes of information so, they had to focus more on the basic principles and could often apply those principles better to different situations.

    That is not universally true, of course, but as Alice mentioned, one of her teachers was absolutely brilliant, but couldn't explain the content at all. I had a similar math teacher my first two years of college; incredibly smart and incredibly hard to understand any of his explanations.

    Do I like teaching math? ABSOLUTELY!!!! I LOVE it. I disagree that there is no room for discussion because there is often more than one way to solve the same problem. Yes, you still get the same answer in the end, but there can be 2 or 3 or more ways to get there. I LOVED it when a student would come up with a different way of solving a problem I had written on the board or assigned for homework because the way THEY solved it might be easier for one of their classmates to understand than the "textbook" way that I was teaching. As long as the fundamentals still work, I'm all for using any method that makes it easier for the kids to remember.

    I also struggled with Pre-Calc and Calc in college. In fact, I FAILED my Calculus class (well, I would have failed, but that was also when I was diagnosed with Chron's Disease and I ended up taking a medical drop from school that semester). Now they teach it high school and I'm studying again to get my HS Math certification. Fortunately, I'm much older and wiser now and have better study habits, so it's coming to me much easier than it did before.

    You've realized a big part of your low grades is your lack of effort. Nothing wrong with that. Most of us have been there ourselves. But you've realized it early enough to correct and improve it. I'm sure you will do fine with it from here on out. :thumb:
     
  17. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Oh, I would have to strongly disagree with that last statement. There's lots of room for discussion. At the lower levels, it's pretty cut and dry, but there's a lot of exploration you can do to discover why it's become that way. The discussions that result from that exploration can be quite exciting. At the upper levels, there are raging debates going on. Going beyond computational mathematics and into the abstract brings on a whole new level of discussion. I love my subject area. I love discussing the hows and the whys and, how we discovered things. I love leading students through multiple ways to get to the same answer, and helping them see why I can solve the same problem 8 different ways and they're still really doing the same thing. I could go on and on, but for now, I'll spare you :).
     
  18. Marci07

    Marci07 Devotee

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    :yeahthat:
     

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