US middle school math teachers incompetent: Study

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New York, Dec 12 (UNI) Even as the United States continues to set standards at international level, its mathematics teachers lag far behind their counterparts in other countries in their preparation for teaching the subject, new findings reveal.

''Our future teachers are getting weak training mathematically and are just not prepared to teach the demanding mathematics curriculum required for middle schools to compete internationally, lead researcher William Schmidt observed.

The new Michigan State University's Mathematics Teaching in the 21st Century (MT21) studied how well a sample of universities and teacher-training institutions prepare middle school math teachers in the US, South Korea, Taiwan, Germany, Bulgaria and Mexico.

As many as 2,627 future teachers were surveyed about their preparation, knowledge and beliefs in the area.

The length of teacher preparation requirements varied from four to seven years among the countries. ''The real issue is the courses they take and the experiences they have while in their programs,'' Mr Schmidt said, adding, ''It also involves training in the practical aspects of teaching middle school math and of teaching in general.'' Compared to the other countries, the US future teachers ranked from the middle to the bottom on MT21 measures of math knowledge.

The future US teachers tend to do the worst in algebra, and algebra was the heart of middle school math, the study revealed.

''The MT21 study extends the international perspective from students to teachers and provides us with new approaches for how to conduct a study and valuable comparisons about the outcomes of teacher education programmes across the participating nations,'' said NSF deputy assistant director, Wand Ward.

Past studies had indicated the major factors related to low US achievement in mathematics compared to other countries at seventh and eighth grades was the US middle school curriculum that was unfocused, lacking coherence and not demanding.

''It is important for us as a nation to understand that teacher preparation programs are critical, not only for future teachers, but also for the children they will be teaching,'' Dr Schmidt said.


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