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A Look at Math Education in Texas

Adults know that math plays an important role in their lives. They may use it to calculate a tip after a meal in a restaurant or to be sure they received the correct amount of change after a cash transaction. These examples involve simple math that does not rely on advanced math classes like algebra or calculus. 

A student may not be planning to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering or math, but students need more math today than they did 20 years ago. Career fields that did not traditionally rely heavily on math are starting to do so. With the advent of big data, workers need to know how to make sense of the data to be successful in their roles.

How Are Texas Pre-K Through 12th Grade Students Doing in Math?

Based on U.S. Census data, U.S. News & World Report magazine ranks Texas as No. 22 in math education. This puts Texas in the top 43 percent in the U.S. for math.

Furthermore, the Texas Education Agency reports that 81 percent of fifth grade students passed the math portion of the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) given in 2017. In that same period, 74 percent of all Texas eighth grade students passed math. The passing rate has held steady at above 80 percent for the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam between 2015 and 2017, according to data from the Dallas Morning News.

Although Texas has seen a slight increase in math assessment scores, it does not take much to pass. The Dallas Morning News gives an example of this. To pass math on STAAR, sixth graders only need to correctly answer a third of the test questions. Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath states that one of Texas Education Agency's (TEA) top priorities is to improve the foundation of math to stop the gaps from widening as students move up in grade.

The Need for Better Teacher Preparation

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics President Linda M. Gojak reflected on 25 years of math education. She applauds efforts to improve standards and math education. However, nothing will change if this information does not reach teachers.

Gojak says teacher preparation has grown more rigid and credential requirements have become stricter. She goes on to explain that the elementary teacher education coursework does not give them the detailed knowledge they need to ensure their students get the math foundation they need.

Earning a master's degree may give math teachers the deep expertise required to close the gap inherent in teacher preparation. That is why Texas educator Lisa Willey enrolled in an online M.Ed. program.

Willey says that as an undergraduate student, she learned the teaching basics and how to run a classroom. Her master's degree program is helping her become a more effective teacher. In fact, she put the knowledge she picked up at the start of the program right to work in her classroom.

"For a while, I never thought a master's degree was more than just another piece of paper," she said. "I never felt there was a reason for it, but as I was starting to teach, I started to realize, 'There's a lot I really don't know and people around me don't know. After all of these years, I'm finally getting what I need to be really good at what I do."

Learn more about the UTA's online Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction -- Mathematics Education program.


Sources:

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics: A Reflection on 25 Years in Mathematics Education

The Dallas Morning News: Texas Students Losing Ground on STAAR Tests

UTA: Lisa Willey Connects Dots With Online M.Ed. Program

Texas Education Agency: STAAR Reports

U.S. News & World Report: Education Rankings

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