Standard P.3. Opportunities to Learn to Teach Mathematics
An effective mathematics teacher preparation program provides candidates with multiple opportunities to learn to teach through mathematics-specific methods courses (or equivalent professional learning experiences) in which mathematics, practices for teaching mathematics, knowledge of students as learners, and the social contexts of mathematics teaching and learning are integrated.
As described in Chapter 3, mathematics methods courses are critical to the preparation of well-prepared beginners. For middle level teacher candidates to be well-prepared, they need middle-level-focused methods courses in which they have opportunities to apply their developing teaching skills and their knowledge of mathematics to the teaching of specific mathematical topics at the middle level. Such preparation is necessary but not sufficient for a well-prepared middle level candidate. A high-quality program also requires coursework that prepares middle level teachers of mathematics to understand the learner, the content they have learned prior to middle school, and the content they will learn after middle school.
Effective programs preparing teachers of mathematics at the middle level include coursework focused specifically on teaching middle level mathematics, the middle level learner, and content prior to and following middle school. [Elaboration of P.3.1, P.3.2, P.3.3, and P.3.4]
For middle level teacher candidates to be well prepared, they need middle-level-focused methods courses in which they have opportunities to apply their developing teaching skills and their knowledge of mathematics to the teaching of specific mathematical topics at the middle level. In addition to this mathematics-specific, middle level experience, those preparing to teach middle level mathematics should have at least one additional intense learning opportunity focused on the middle level learner. This experience may be a second content methods course (e.g., a secondary mathematics methods course), a general middle level course, or a middle school methods course in a different discipline (e.g., middle school science methods). Having more than one course focused on middle level learners or on a second content area provide candidates opportunities to explore interdisciplinary connections as well as other aspects of the middle school and middle level learners, integrative and experiential curriculum, instructional strategies appropriate to the early adolescent, and the ways in which middle schools function.
As the name of the grade-band indicates, middle level educators teach at a transitional point in a learner’s K–12 mathematics education. Additionally, mathematics experiences and learning across these years transition from concrete and visual content toward more abstract and complex content. Students also enter middle level grades with gaps in their understandings of elementary-level mathematics. As described in middle-level-candidate expectations earlier in this chapter, middle level teachers of mathematics must know what content is taught prior to and after middle school as well as know how to assess the extent that their students have learned what was previously taught and then address any learning gaps while also teaching the appropriate middle level content. Acquiring such knowledge and skills requires significant coursework and experiences with elementary and high school mathematics and mathematics teaching. Rational-number learning, for example, begins with students’ elementary school introductions to this number concept, a necessary foundation to accomplish the highly developed understandings of rational number expected in middle school. In a similar way, middle level teachers of mathematics must understand the concepts in algebra, geometry, statistics, and functions that are increasingly abstract and complex and are foundational to the study of high school mathematics. This understanding may be acquired in a program through the inclusion of elementary or secondary content-for-teacher courses, additional methods courses, or attention to elementary and secondary mathematics within a series of middle level mathematics courses.