Stupid state teaching test..ugh

MrMatt

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Mar 3, 2009
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So I have a friend that is trying to become a full-fledged teacher (this is in MA), she's aiming to work with between 3rd&5th graders. Right now she works with a special needs student one on one in a local middle school. We have tests up here for teaching licensure; I believe there are 5 or 6, a couple of them you take at the same time. She passes all of them on the first try, except the math one. She is NOT good at math, or rather geometry & algebra. She's taken the math section twice, and both times she's failed, and both time it's the geometry portion that she keeps bombing on. She showed me a sample test, and for the life of me I can't figure out what 3rd grader is going to need to know advanced geometry..heck even a 5th grader. I'm just frustrated because she is GREAT with children,and passionate about teaching, but because she's not good with a form of math the kids she wants to teach won't even get to for 5-7 more years, she so far hasn't been able to get licensed

I've told her I'm going to spend the next several weeks tutoring her...looks like we'll be spending a lot of time here. Anyone else know any other site I could use to help her? Thanks in advance
 

Gibson486

Lifer
Aug 9, 2000
18,378
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because you need to know more than 1 level above your class to be teaching them. How would you feel if the person teaching you algebra 1 knew nothing about algebra 2 or preclalc? You need to know more than just the class....if you didn't. you would just be teaching kids blindly.

http://www.purplemath.com/modules/index.htm
 

MrMatt

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Mar 3, 2009
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because you need to know more than 1 level above your class to be teaching them. How would you feel if the person teaching you algebra 1 knew nothing about algebra 2 or preclalc? You need to know more than just the class....if you didn't. you would just be teaching kids blindly.

http://www.purplemath.com/modules/index.htm


Honestly if the person knew how to teach what they were supposed to I wouldn't mind. It's not like she can't do 8th grade math, it's more advanced geometry that trips her up.
 

dfuze

Lifer
Feb 15, 2006
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Not sure how teaching licensing goes, but if she got certified, can she only teach 3rd and 5th or could she apply for anything? I ask going along the lines of if she was allowed in for not knowing the geometry section, what would stop her from changing jobs (or being transferred) to do one she didn't know?
 

MrChad

Lifer
Aug 22, 2001
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Not sure how teaching licensing goes, but if she got certified, can she only teach 3rd and 5th or could she apply for anything? I ask going along the lines of if she was allowed in for not knowing the geometry section, what would stop her from changing jobs (or being transferred) to do one she didn't know?

Most licenses specify primary vs. secondary education.
 

DrPizza

Administrator Elite Member Goat Whisperer
Mar 5, 2001
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I teach mathematics in high school. I teach Calc I & Calc II. NOTHING that I teach was learned in college. Every single credit in mathematics was beyond Calc II. All 60 or so in mathematics. And, within the next year or so, I'll be taking 2 or 3 more master's level mathematics courses.

Anyway, I can fully understand why you need a higher level of mathematics beyond the level that you're teaching.

Here's an example: (4th grade level, I believe) "What is 2/3 divided by 5/7?" Answer: 14/15

Now, here's the part that sucked one year. Apparently, somewhere, someone taught a bunch of students that when you divide fractions, you "cross-multiply." Sure, the teacher knew that in the example above, you should flip the 5/7 over and make it 7/5, then multiply across the top and multiply across the bottom. But, that teacher apparently decided "I've heard of 'cross multiply' before. Let's make it easy for the kids. Leave the 2/3 and 5/7 alone, multiply in a cross, the 2 times the 7 and the 3 times the 5.

I don't think you can quite comprehend how much confusion is caused for weaker students when you screw up their math vocabulary and later, "cross multiply" means something different.

I don't have the time to really get into it right now, but one of the problems with poor math education in the US is because elementary teachers are very often weak in math skills - just enough to barely "get by." Plenty of educational groups (NCTM for example) believe that standards need to be raised for elementary teachers.
 

rudder

Lifer
Nov 9, 2000
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Many states cert for a whole range of grades. here in tennessee they cert from K-6 and 7-12. It used to be K-8. So someone planning to teach in 2nd grade had to be able to teach to an eight grader as well. Plus you are not always guaranteed a specific grade. A school system may find that enrollment is down for 2nd graders so a district drops some second grade teachers and adds a few 6th grade teachers.
 

MrMatt

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Mar 3, 2009
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Not sure how teaching licensing goes, but if she got certified, can she only teach 3rd and 5th or could she apply for anything? I ask going along the lines of if she was allowed in for not knowing the geometry section, what would stop her from changing jobs (or being transferred) to do one she didn't know?

She'd be certified up to 6th grade I believe. I'd have to ask her, but if I recall it'd be pretty specific, like 3-6 or something like that. If she could just transfer to h.s. with it then, yeah, I'd completely understand why they have more stuff on the test...but honestly what 4th grader needs to know sin,cos,tan, etc.
 

MrMatt

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Mar 3, 2009
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I teach mathematics in high school. I teach Calc I & Calc II. NOTHING that I teach was learned in college. Every single credit in mathematics was beyond Calc II. All 60 or so in mathematics. And, within the next year or so, I'll be taking 2 or 3 more master's level mathematics courses.

Anyway, I can fully understand why you need a higher level of mathematics beyond the level that you're teaching.

Here's an example: (4th grade level, I believe) "What is 2/3 divided by 5/7?" Answer: 14/15

Now, here's the part that sucked one year. Apparently, somewhere, someone taught a bunch of students that when you divide fractions, you "cross-multiply." Sure, the teacher knew that in the example above, you should flip the 5/7 over and make it 7/5, then multiply across the top and multiply across the bottom. But, that teacher apparently decided "I've heard of 'cross multiply' before. Let's make it easy for the kids. Leave the 2/3 and 5/7 alone, multiply in a cross, the 2 times the 7 and the 3 times the 5.

I don't think you can quite comprehend how much confusion is caused for weaker students when you screw up their math vocabulary and later, "cross multiply" means something different.

I don't have the time to really get into it right now, but one of the problems with poor math education in the US is because elementary teachers are very often weak in math skills - just enough to barely "get by." Plenty of educational groups (NCTM for example) believe that standards need to be raised for elementary teachers.


I agree with what you said for the most part; I was always an advanced student, I skipped grades, went to college early, all that. My 4th grade class was actually my best year I probably ever had. I'll never forget, my teacher Mrs. Wysocki split us up into two groups for math. Those who had A averages had the option of joining an advanced group, that would go as far and as fast as we could manage. By the end of the year we were up to Algebra. She ended up getting reprimanded for it, but me and my friends I still am in touch with from that group are still thankful. However, for the other part, some of the densest people I ever had were teachers. Particularly in math, apparently in MA it got so bad that the state raised the passing score on the teaching tests up here. If my friend had taken the test 18 months ago, she'd have gotten a passing grade.

As for my friends, the math test is 45 questions, and one 'comprehension' sort of essay/lesson plan. She's literally 2 or 3 questions away from passing. I'm just going to spend the next few weeks drilling geometry into her head. She remembers a lot of the questions that she knows she gets wrong, and again it's not stuff I touched until 9th or 10th grade for the most part. And since she wouldn't be certified to teach in those grades anyhow, it's just baffling as to why they're on the test
 

Gigantopithecus

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Dec 14, 2004
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Particularly in math, apparently in MA it got so bad that the state raised the passing score on the teaching tests up here.

I think you just answered your own question. It doesn't matter whether your friend will ever actually have to teach what's on the test. It matters that your friend is capable of secondary ed level math. No one's going to complain about a teacher who is perhaps overqualified, but any parent who's paying attention and gives a shit about their kid's education will complain about a teacher who is underqualified. The higher the state ed board sets the standards, the fewer underqualified teachers will squeak through.
 

DrPizza

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You also pointed out something incredibly important: kids who are good in math can move at a MUCH faster pace than the average kid. (According to you, half of your class.) Unfortunately, it's strongly discouraged. I think a huge reason that it's discouraged is because what's the next teacher going to do with those students who now know more than the teacher?

If you're minimally qualified at the level you teach, you really can't provide much opportunity to differentiate instruction and help the better students learn more.
 

MrMatt

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Mar 3, 2009
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You also pointed out something incredibly important: kids who are good in math can move at a MUCH faster pace than the average kid. (According to you, half of your class.) Unfortunately, it's strongly discouraged. I think a huge reason that it's discouraged is because what's the next teacher going to do with those students who now know more than the teacher?

If you're minimally qualified at the level you teach, you really can't provide much opportunity to differentiate instruction and help the better students learn more.

actually that is a good point. I've been absolutely drilling the parts she has difficulty with into my friend's head the last few days. I'm going to keep doing it until she can do this stuff in her sleep. I get the feeling she may have actually had some pretty shitty teachers along the way, because she's picking it up easy enough now.
 

LtPage1

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Jan 15, 2004
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Yeah, those tests are way, way too easy. Sorry, but your friend needs to be able to do that stuff.
 

guyver01

Lifer
Sep 25, 2000
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Just tell her to show them her college transcripts...

She did get more than a B in Macroeconomics i hope..
 

DrPizza

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actually that is a good point. I've been absolutely drilling the parts she has difficulty with into my friend's head the last few days. I'm going to keep doing it until she can do this stuff in her sleep. I get the feeling she may have actually had some pretty shitty teachers along the way, because she's picking it up easy enough now.

You suggested that it may be because of her past teachers. Now think about it - perhaps it's because those teachers weren't that great in math. I'm very lucky to work in a school district where our elementary teachers are apparently quite good (more than "good enough") at teaching mathematics. When the kids get to the high school, it's not that hard to continue extending their ability - we generally have a 100% pass rate on the state math exams (there's a state exam for Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra II/Trig) or very close to it.
 

Cogman

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Sep 19, 2000
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You also pointed out something incredibly important: kids who are good in math can move at a MUCH faster pace than the average kid. (According to you, half of your class.) Unfortunately, it's strongly discouraged. I think a huge reason that it's discouraged is because what's the next teacher going to do with those students who now know more than the teacher?

And this is what sucks with our education system. They try and keep every kid uniformly informed about mathematics and the like, rather than letting strong students progress at their own pace.

I'm pretty confident I could have been doing calculus level math much sooner than I did. but throughout elementary we spent so much time doing math very basic math. addition in the first grade, multiplication in the 2nd.. 3rd.. and 4th grade. division in the 5th ect. I know some kids don't get it, but I did. I actually regressed in my math skills in the 4th grade because the teacher, for whatever reason, thought I was retarded and wouldn't give me anything more complicated than multiplying 2 x 2.