New major at ISU addresses middle school math teacher shortage

Recently, board members approved a Middle School Mathematics major at Indiana State University.

Posted: Jun 5, 2018 10:53 PM
Updated: Jun 5, 2018 11:16 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - Another school year is in the books for math teacher, John Szabo.

"Mathematics, especially, is very high stakes," said Szabo.

Szabo teaches 7th grade math at North Clay Middle School in Brazil, Indiana.

"Whether it's high school, college or just going out in the workforce, so many of the skills we teach in middle school math are foundational skills for almost anything they're planning on doing," he said.

While it's a profession he enjoys, Szabo said he's noticed the shortage in middle school math teachers. For him, he believes pressures, like standardized testing, have turned interest away for some.

"With the former ISTEP Test and the standardized testing that the state has us do, really math and english are the two that are most closely scrutinized," Szabo said, "Now we do take other tests, but math and english are the ones that are the foundation for our school letter grades that are handed out, for our teacher evaluations it's a big part of how the students do on that, and for some people I think that challenge is maybe a little too much."

For Dr. Liz Brown, professor and chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, another factor to the shortage is the salary.

"I think there is an issue with how we pay teachers in the state of Indiana, and not just here, but in other states as well," Brown said, "and a lot of people who have degrees in math or science can go and get jobs that pay significantly more. So I think it's really hard to keep people in the teaching profession."

"I think most people when they hear middle school, they want to run screaming, and most people when they hear mathematics want to run screaming and you put the two together and you just have the perfect storm," she said, "but there are, in this world, people who love both."

Recently, board members approved a Middle School Mathematics major at Indiana State University. The new major, Brown said, is designed to help address the shortage and will begin in the fall.

The new major totals out to 69 credit hours, which is less than the 82 credits in the current Mathematics Teaching major at ISU.

The goal, Brown said, is to help students, with a specific interest in teaching middle school math, gain their licensure through a shorter program.

"It's really focused on the math that they're going to need for middle school, of course beyond as well," she said, "and then they take several classes that are geared specifically towards teaching middle school. So it's how do we help middle school kids, who are a unique population, learn mathematics."

Educators, like Szabo, consider it as a step to help build not only young minds, but future educators.

"The kids need it, schools need it," Szabo said, "and any time we can get more focused major programs, like middle school mathematics, I think it will have a benefit for all learning in Indiana."

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