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How to Prepare Math Teachers: The NCTQ Recommended Method


The National Council on Teacher Quality has argued that the courses offered by teacher colleges to prepare elementary math teachers are impractical, vague, and both short on math content and the specific training necessary to get math concepts across to students.

Now NCTQ is offering a new Web site meant as a resource for college faculty and others involved in shaping college elementary math courses. It includes recommendations about specific topics math-aspiring teachers should be taught, as well as specific math textbooks and syllabi the Washington-based organization deems to be of high quality.

One model set of syllabi cited is that of Louisiana State University; another that receives a plug is from the University of Georgia. There are others. NCTQ is inviting college faculty to submit other course materials it believes make the grade. In some cases, the organization says it's looking for syllabi that support particular textbooks it rates highly. The NCTQ is also trying to collect what it calls "hybrid" course materials that "combine content and methods instruction."

To get a better sense of NCTQ's standards for judging the quality of a teacher program in elementary math, see the organization's report titled "No Common Denominator: The Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Mathematics by America's Education Schools."

The audience for the Web resource are instructors at the nation's teacher colleges, who train thousands of elementary teachers annually, an NCTQ official told me. One question I had was how much discretion these instructors would have to change the coursework or syllabi they follow from year to year; NCTQ officials evidently believe faculty have enough sway that it's worth reaching out to them.

If you're immersed in an elementary teacher education program, I'll pose a question to you: How satisfied are you with the curriculum you're following, and where does it fall short? (Maybe you'll tell me you won't know until you are actually a teacher in your own classroom.) After looking at NCTQ's model coursework, how much of a departure would this approach represent for you in terms of the training you're receiving now in math?



Just to chirp in: Based on my own experience as a grad. student and instructor of pre-service social studies teacher education classes, I can tell you that instructors have a great deal of leeway. When I was invited to teach the pre-service social studies methods courses I was basically told, "Now go and develop the class." There were no meaningful expectations. In fact, I can't remember anything that I was told had to be in the class. I imagine it's similar in math teacher prep. classes.


Standards are a little different in Virginia from what has been described. The VDOE determines the competencies required in approved programs, and the programs must show where those competencies are met. The math competencies are based on NCTQ recommendations. While a program might get by for a few years with not meeting the criteria, during State reviews problems become obvious.

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