- Four state universities in California are offering new preparation programs that will cut the normal time to earn math credentials and a degree from five and a half years to four, saving candidates time and about $7,000 in tuition costs.
- The plan should produce more math teachers each year in an effort to help address the expected shortfall of 33,000 math and science teachers over the next decade in California.
- School districts in the state have been offering other incentives such as housing assistance, cash bonuses and student loan forgiveness. And some state colleges are offering scholarships for future math and science teachers, research opportunities with established scientists and an easier transfer process from community colleges in order to address the situation.
While California is facing math teacher shortages, they are not alone. According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, 48 states reported shortages of math teachers for the 2017-18 academic year — and the situation is expected to get worse in the future.
The challenge is that fewer students are studying math in college today and most of those enter more lucrative fields after college. Many schools are left with substitute teachers who often have little or no training in teaching math or teachers with emergency teaching licenses and little practical knowledge of math education. Still others are turning to online sources such as Khan Academy or virtual public schools to supplement math instruction. However, since math, more than almost any other subject, requires a personal approach to be effective, these other approaches become less than satisfactory.
The problem is a circular one. A growing number of students hate math because they were never taught math by an effective teacher who was knowledgeable and passionate about the subject. This situation leads to a feeling of inadequacy about learning math which turns most students off altogether. Fewer students are then inspired to study and teach the subject. The only solution for superintendents and school leaders seems to be to offer enough incentives to attract well-qualified math teachers, provide proper supports along the way, train them to mentor other math teachers.