You've heard of reading specialists before. Now, the new thing is math specialists.
We need math specialists, this article strongly suggests, because a great majority of elementary teachers are intimidated by the subject. Apparently attaining certification after years of study does NOT guarantee that a given teacher really knows third grade math, let alone how to teach it.
"Many teachers-in-training harbor bad math memories, said Jennifer Suh, an assistant professor of math education at George Mason University. Suh begins her classes 'almost like a therapy session,' she said, where she asks the aspiring teachers to talk about their math education. Some recalled suffering through work sheets or getting stuck in lower-level classes."
Let's just take a break from chatting about "math specialists" for just a minute, okayyyy? Do we want people who got "stuck in lower-level classes" teaching our future mathematicians and scientists? Nevermind the therapy business a minute, because I'm assuming these teachers are paying for that crap themselves. Let them discover their inner teacher as much as they'd like on their own dime; but hopefully, my local school district and yours would know better than to hire someone who's plainly incompetent. Especially in this down economy, where recently there were 75 applications for every teaching job, we can DEMAND better. Demand better!
Back to the math specialist idea. It might just be a good one if children who are struggling with mathematics get a little bit of specialized help. Certainly, if we're going to have a specialist for reading, I don't see why we can't have one for mathematics. Mathematics is just as important as reading, isn't it?
Though it does bother me to read that the specialists seem to be hired to take the load off teachers who have no business instructing children in the subject, and aren't by and large there to help the children directly at all. I googled "math specialists" and found quite a number of articles. The best I can deduce from my reading is that it is a relatively new speciality and other articles also discuss the lack of competency many general classroom teachers have in the subject.
Perhaps it is wrong of me to get snickety about WHY the math specialists are needed. It seems a simple fact that they are needed, plain and simple. This post is not meant to be a high-n-mighty, public schools are all bad sort of rant. I am shocked, though, to read that so many teachers have difficulties this deep. Presumably *most* teachers in training were once public-schoolers.
WHAT are we doing to our children that turns them off math so decidedly? I'm sneering at the very idea of this "math therapy" thing, but maybe (just maybe) there is something deeper at work here. Demographically, our new teachers are overwhelmingly young ladies. So, what is going on that our young ladies are so math-aversive? And why would people who are math-aversive be drawn to teaching, knowing that their least favourite subject would need to be taught on a regular basis?
Just some questions I have...