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How can we get more mathematics teachers into classrooms, to fill the expanding number of vacancies? Several recent articles have suggested solutions, all unfortunately with a poltiical bent.

For example, in mid-January, to fill the expected 32000 openings in Florida next fall, Governor Bush has proposed signing bonuses, housing assistance, and extra pay....all aimed at attracting teachers in critical areas--mathematics, science, reading, and special education. This is on top of special loan forgiveness programs and the purchase of a laptop for each teacher. These proposals are in line with 30 other states who already offer financial incentives to attract teachers.

Then, in his State-of-the-Union speech in February, President Bush advocated a new focus on improving mathematics education, tied directly to the recruitment and preparation of mathematics teachers. His statements echoed those recently made by national business and science groups. Again, the incentives bantered about involve money, but no one--Congress, the President, private sector--stepped forward to ensure that these incentives would reach reality.

When will we get past the political rhetoric? Also, where are the studies that show that the solution to the problem is to throw more money at the teachers? Neither rhetoric nor money can suffice, as one needs to start with individuals who want to be mathematics teachers...and then build from there:

  • Change society's image of what it means to be a math teacher
  • View and treat math teachers as professionals
  • Give them the proper resources and smaller classes
  • Don't overwhelm them with all kinds of senseless meetings and regulations
  • Get parents to admit that math is important in their lives
The list goes on....and this is just for mathematics teachers in general. Another list focuses on ensuring quality math teachers in classrooms, which is not the same as a warm body. To many think that anyone can teach math...just handout some worksheets and take away the calculators! Perhaps that is why we are in our current predicament.