Thursday, February 6, 2014

Confidence Makes a Difference

It might seem somewhat obvious when you think about it but there is now research to support the idea that female elementary school teachers who are confident with the math they know have a significantly positive  impact on the way young girls learn math. Since most elementary school teachers are female one might be tempted to celebrate this research. Unfortunately, as the study points out, confidence with teaching math comes as a result of studying math in depth such as having a math major or pursuing a deeper understanding of math through graduate study or professional development. Sadly, very few elementary teacher candidates choose to pursue a math major although, interestingly, two of my current student teachers do have math majors. Both are very confident when they teach math.

One of the interesting things about the current elementary school teacher licensing regulations in many States is that in order to teach P.E., art. or music at the elementary school level, candidates are required to have a major in that particular subject. The same is not true of math or any of the other subjects taught at the elementary school level. In fact, it is possible in some situations for pre-service teachers to obtain an elementary school teacher license with only three credits of math education, a situation that would not seem to develop future teachers' confidence in their ability to teach math.

The Vermont Math Leadership Council (VMLC) was recently established in Vermont in an effort to  help teachers develop their understanding of mathematics.     

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