The undergraduate program in mathematics education at BYU is unique in its approach to preparing future secondary mathematics teachers. This uniqueness is reflected in its course offerings, student teaching experience, and research opportunities.
Mathematics Education majors and minors across the US typically take three types of courses for their degree:
- College mathematics courses focused on mathematical content that is more advanced than the mathematics taught in secondary schools.
- Teacher education courses focused on general issues, topics, and skills related to secondary school teaching.
- Mathematics education courses focused on the mathematics content taught in secondary schools and the issues, topics, and skills related specifically to teaching mathematics.
In the vast majority of mathematics teacher education programs, students have access to only a few (typically 3 or less) mathematics education courses that specifically prepare them to teach mathematics in secondary schools. Most of the courses they take are college mathematics courses or teacher education courses designed for all secondary school teachers.
At BYU, majors and minors take many mathematics education courses and fewer college mathematics and general teacher education courses. The advantage of taking more mathematics education courses is that these courses are specifically designed to help future teachers accomplish the following:
- Better understand secondary school mathematics content they will be teaching;
- Develop the knowledge and practices necessary for teaching mathematics with meaning and making mathematics accessible to a diverse population of learners.
Central to the major and minor is a sequence of mathematics education courses (MthEd 177, 276, 277, 278, 377, 378, 476) that forms the core of their studies. This sequence starts with MthEd 177, a class that allows majors and minors to experience what it is like to learn mathematics deeply through exploration and problem solving. Subsequent courses guide them through the process of learning how to design and implement mathematics instruction that promotes this kind of mathematics learning. In particular, majors and minors learn to anticipate, understand, value, and build on student thinking; design tasks for learning; design, modify, and use tasks for formative and summative assessment; and design and teach lessons that engage learners in exploring, learning, and understanding mathematics.
In addition to this core sequences, majors (and in some cases minors) also take the following special topics courses taught by mathematics education faculty:
- MthEd 300: History of Mathematics
- MthEd 301: Learning and Teaching Probability and Statistics
- MthEd 308: Teaching Mathematics with Technology
- MthEd 362: Euclidean and Non-Euclidean Geometry
Only BYU offers such an extensive selection of undergraduate courses in mathematics education, which uniquely prepares BYU mathematics education graduates to excel in teaching mathematics and to become leaders in their schools and districts.
Student Teaching Experience
In most US mathematics teacher education programs, students participate in the capstone experience of student teaching where future teachers assume the responsibilities of a classroom math teacher for a semester under the supervision of an experienced mathematics teacher and a university supervisor. Often this experience is described by participants and supervisors as a “sink or swim” experience.
BYU Mathematics Education students also participate in student teaching, but with 3 important supports:
- Student teachers are assigned to teach in pairs. This allows students more time to plan and reflect on their instruction, and provides them with an additional person to support them.
- Students spend the first few weeks of student teaching working with a cohort of students and a BYU mathematics education faculty member to observe, reflect on, plan, and engage in mathematics teaching.
- Student teachers are mentored and supervised by experienced, progressive mathematics school teachers and faculty members from the Department of Mathematics Education. In other US teacher education programs, student teachers may be under the supervision of university teacher educators whose background is in a subject area other than mathematics.
These three supports provide student teachers with valuable scaffolding that enables them to have positive experiences in student teaching and to be able to spend more time learning how to teach mathematics well and less time just trying to stay afloat.
The Department of Mathematics Education has eight active research faculty with a variety of ongoing research studies. Department faculty regularly publish in national and international journals and present at national and international conferences. Many students have had the opportunity to work on a faculty research projects while still undergraduate students, and some have even published and presented with faculty members. Funding is available to pay undergraduate researchers as they work on research projects. Opportunities to participate in research not only improve undergraduates’ understanding of the field of mathematics education, but can also help them decide whether or not they want to pursue a graduate degree in the future. Undergraduate students who are interested in participating in research are encouraged to talk with faculty and ask about research opportunities.