How to Become a Math Teacher

Pure mathematics is the world's best game. It is more absorbing than chess, more of a gamble than poker, and lasts longer than Monopoly. It's free. It can be played anywhere. Archimedes did it in a bathtub. R. Trudeau

Typically, a "math" teacher is referred to an educator who teaches middle school or high school math. Mathematics teachers can teach any grade from kindergarten to the twelfth grade and beyond, but may be required to have special training for classes such as algebra, trigonometry, geometry, and other higher level math classes.

Qualities of a Math Teacher

Math teachers, also called arithmetic teachers or mathematics teachers, are highly skilled in a variety of topics. Math teachers should be patient as it take some students a long time to comprehend a concept. Math teachers should also be creative in finding ways to convey concepts to somewhat resistant students. Math teachers go beyond teaching the basics of counting, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing to instilling a love of math and its usefulness into students.

Math teachers have the ability to help students at all levels to be able to function well in an adult world without a fear of using mathematics. These skills can range from basic addition and subtraction for writing checks to taking part in the stock market with a full understanding of the rises and falls.

Benefits of Teaching Math

A plus in becoming a math teacher is that jobs are typically plentiful and often come with stipends for the high need area. Many math teachers have student loans paid off as part of taking a mathematics position within a school, this is especially true of low income areas.

What are the Requirements for Teaching Math?

Math teachers are usually well versed in both their understanding of the basics of mathematics and how to share that knowledge in various ways. A math teacher must have the ability to communicate effectively with students, parents, and co-workers in order to work toward the common goal of providing education to youth. These teachers are required to create lesson plans to keep students engaged in the learning process while sharing math concepts that can often be confusing.

Teaching Elementary School Math

Math teachers who teach elementary school are typically certified in elementary education and teach all topics or at least one additional topic to rotating classes, normally not more than four a day.

Math teachers at the Elementary level often earn an Elementary Education Degree.

Middle School Math Teacher

Those who teach middle school (6th - 8th grade) teach general mathematics classes and on occasion a single higher level math such as algebra, to up to seven classes a day.

High School Math Teacher

Teachers at the high school level (9th - 12th grade) are often specialized in teaching algebra, geometry, trigonometry, or other higher level classes to three or four classes daily. Some specialized math teachers may also teach advanced placement classes as needed.

Many teachers, just as most other teachers, may be expected to serve lunch, recess, or bathroom duties as needed or assigned.

Most high school and middle school math teachers earn a Bachelor's Degree in Education, a Master's Degree in Education, or a degree in Secondary Education.

Math Teacher by Degree Level

The tables and charts below break down the education level obtained as averaged across the U.S.

Degree LevelPercent (%)
Less Than High School Diploma2.0%
High School Diploma13.2%
Some College23.8%
Associate Degree13.7%
Bachelors Degree33.9%
Masters Degree12.7%
Doctorate Degree0.7%

Data taken from BLS Educational attainment for workers 25 years and older by detailed occupation, 2010-11 (http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_111.htm)

Degree LevelPercent (%)
Less Than High School Diploma0.2%
High School Diploma0.3%
Some College2.9%
Associate Degree1.9%
Bachelors Degree44.3%
Masters Degree46.5%
Doctorate Degree3.9%

Data taken from BLS Educational attainment for workers 25 years and older by detailed occupation, 2010-11 (http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_111.htm)

Degree LevelPercent (%)
Less Than High School Diploma0.2%
High School Diploma0.2%
Some College2.3%
Associate Degree1.5%
Bachelors Degree43.4%
Masters Degree48.3%
Doctorate Degree4.0%

Data taken from BLS Educational attainment for workers 25 years and older by detailed occupation, 2010-11 (http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_111.htm)

Degree LevelPercent (%)
Less Than High School Diploma0.2%
High School Diploma0.1%
Some College2.6%
Associate Degree2.3%
Bachelors Degree16.0%
Masters Degree35.6%
Doctorate Degree43.3%

Data taken from BLS Educational attainment for workers 25 years and older by detailed occupation, 2010-11 (http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_111.htm)

How do I Become a Math Teacher?

If you wish to become a math teacher traditionally, you must often go through an educator preparation program and receive a Bachelor's Degree. However, some states offer an alternative route to certification if a math major is willing to teach for a set amount of time. This typically involves meeting with trained teachers and attending classes. A mathematics program specifically for teachers will include classes on teaching actual mathematics concepts, teaching special populations, and general pedagogy. These programs will often require observations and student teaching. All teacher education programs that lead to a valid teaching certificate must be certified through CAEP (Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation). CAEP is the combination of two former agencies, NCATE and TEAC.

Teacher Preparation Programs for Math Teachers

The majority of accredited colleges and universities will offer a joint or blended program that allows a student to graduate with a teaching degree while also earning a teaching certificate. This usually requires that the student take a proficiency exam in Reading, Writing, and Math, as well as pass a final exam in the specific area of study. As soon as a degree is earned, in some cases before receiving a final certificate, a student may begin working as a substitute in any area of teaching. If you already have a Bachelor's Degree, but did not complete a teacher education program, you will be able to take an alternative or post-baccalaureate pathway toward certification.

Exact licensing requirements will vary by state, as will requirements for test scores.

Find Information About Becoming a Teacher In Your State

Each state has different requirements for becoming a certified teacher. To find out specific requirements, click on your state.

Who Will my Students be?

Depending on the level in which you choose to teach, your students could vary from first time students in kindergarten to students who are ready to begin adulthood. However, most math teachers teach middle and high school. A "math teacher" at an elementary school will need to have the elementary certification needed to teach other general subjects.

Teaching Middle School Math

Middle school students will range from 11 to 15 and be learning higher level math skills each day. There are often basic algebra skills taught and some algebra classes taught in the 8th grade. If teaching middle school, be prepared for a room full of new teenagers who are just learning to deal with their adult bodies and more responsibility.

Teaching High School Math

High school students tend to range in age from 14 to 20. Most students in high school will take at least one higher level mathematics class during their high school years. These students are preparing for adulthood or to move into college. Most high school students are becoming more independent and can handle the higher level order of thinking needed for these classes.

What does a Math Teacher do?

Math classes are taught in a regular classroom or building as part of a larger school. The classroom can often be arranged to fit the needs of the teacher and students. Newer classrooms are typically equipped with computers, projectors, and other equipment necessary to make lessons interactive. If classrooms are not high-tech, a white board and desks will make up the majority of the room.
The math curriculum is set by the text or program the district has adopted as well as the standards the school uses for assessment purposes. Math curriculum should run hand in hand with standards, but some supplementary material may be necessary. Even though a curriculum is provided, it is the responsibility of the teacher to create lesson plans to teach the actual topics.

Math Teacher Jobs & Job Description

Teaching math to students at the elementary and high school levels involves introducing and reinforcing students' understanding of many foundational concepts that students will use throughout their lives. In addition to higher mathematics, students learn financial literacy, word problems and logical thinking. The job does vary in scope and depth between math taught that the elementary level - math taught in high school; below is a typical job description for each of the panels.

Elementary Math Teacher

Elementary school math teachers are often responsible for introducing students to concepts from counting to algebra, as well as working with students to address gaps in knowledge and understanding from year to year. With these goals in mind, math teachers:

  • Help students develop the skills and strategies for mathematical problem solving
  • Understand the basic concepts of numeracy, counting, and numbering
  • Assist students in understanding math as a natural language that is able to be manipulated by the human mind
  • Teach students how to build more advanced skills as they progress
  • Show students how to check work, revise, and evaluate mathematical process
  • Teach students to reread and restate the problem using different language
  • Teach students how to relate the problem to other similar problems
  • Empower students to consider various problem-solving strategies
  • Teach children to do the necessary calculations
  • Teach children to communicate answers using pictures, manipulatives, and words
  • Teach children fundamental concepts like ‘reasonableness' and ‘approximate'
  • Model math reasoning by thinking aloud
  • Encourage talk at each state of the problem solving process
  • Encourage positive attitudes for both genders for approaching mathematics
  • Teach children how to measure using a variety of tools
  • Connect mathematical concepts and procedures to everyday situations
  • Communicate mathematical thinking and inquiry through visuals, written work, and speaking
  • Commit to becoming a role model for students in their particular community
  • Set rigorous, concrete and individualized goals for students to achieve
  • Engage in professional development on a regular basis
  • Use a variety of learning aids and manipulatives to reinforce concepts
  • Relate numbers to anchors of 5, 10, 100, 1000
  • Teach and model basic geometric concepts and relate them to everyday life
  • Understand and construct 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional shapes and properties
  • Understand money, time, and measurement
  • Be committed to becoming a part of the students' community
  • Communicate student progress to families in a proactive manner
  • Promote engaging instructional strategies and student rules through extracurricular and co-curricular activities and direction
  • Acknowledge students in meaningful ways in regard to their academic development and achievements
  • Collaborate with other teachers to support the school's mission statement and values
  • Develop positive and meaningful relationships with students and their families
  • Conduct all teaching practice and related work activities with a manner of professionalism

High School Math Teachers

Secondary school mathematics teachers are responsible for refining students' developing mathematical experiences and greater understanding of math in the world, and directing them toward a study and appreciation of mathematics in both the practical and theoretical spheres. With that goal in mind, secondary math teachers:

  • Teach students the focus and goal of math in the real world
  • Assist students become more confident mathematicians
  • Assist students in discerning that math helps with other scholarly skills
  • Teach students formulaic approach to problem solving
  • Assist students in determining hierarchal structures
  • Help students select and apply a variety of problem solving strategies
  • Create a variety of representations of mathematical concepts
  • Help students determine area, volume, perimeter
  • Help students reflect on their thinking
  • Help students make connections among math concepts
  • Solve problems involving statistics, calculus, trigonometry, geometry and algebra at higher levels
  • Become knowledgeable about ratio and proportion
  • Solve problems involving all manners of triangles
  • Model problem solving for surface of areas and volumes in varying units of measurement
  • Show students how to manipulate algebra
  • Model line graphic and systems of two linear equations
  • Identify and solve quadratic relations
  • Interpret graphs of various relations and functions
  • Become familiar with mathematical terminology and formulas
  • Use analysis to verify problems and solutions
  • Be passionate about the mission and vision of the school
  • Be ready to teach students in their particular home community and district
  • Set academic goals for students to achieve
  • Commit professional development to increase depth and skill of teaching practice
  • Work to passionately embody the mission and vision of the school district and school
  • Commit to becoming a part of the students' community as a teacher
  • Be flexible to meet needs of students that vary from day to day
  • Support the school's culture and practices with confidence
  • Make appropriate connections with students to acknowledge their academic development and achievements
  • Work collaboratively with students and their families to achieve best outcomes
  • Conduct all work activities in a professional manner

Certified mathematics teachers have a number of employment avenues open to them. Read on to learn more.

Where can Certified Math Teachers Teach?

A certified teacher can teach at any private, public, charter, or online school.

Public Schools

Public schools are federally funded and are free to attend for all students. As a result, public schools are very diverse in population.

Private Schools and Online Schools

Private or online schools are often pay to attend schools and may have extensive rules for hiring beyond what may be needed for public school. This simply means that a private Catholic school may have the right to hire only Catholic teachers as a private school. Online schools or classes may also require extensive computer knowledge or in the least, a secure and continual Internet connection.

Charter Schools

Charter schools are held to very high standards and are often more flexible in principles and structure for students and teachers. These schools are independently run, but are tuition free for students.

Math Teacher Organizations & Associations

What is the Salary of a Math Teacher?

At the beginning phase of their career, math teachers make on average between $45,058 (Payscale.com) and $55,050 (BLS.gov) a year. This does not include the almost unparalleled teacher benefits, including health, retirement, and pension. Teachers certified to teach mathematics usually teach at the secondary level, which include high school and middle school. Private sector math teachers earn on average about $10,000 less a year than public school teachers. Secondary teachers certified to teach math generally do not earn more money than other teachers who teach at the secondary level, unless they are 'highly-qualified'. Salaries are based on years of experience and higher education points rather than specific teachable subjects.

To learn more about a teacher's salary, visit our Teacher Salary section.