How to be a great math teacher
A math teacher has to be able to teach a complex subject with the precision and detail needed to get students to think, solve problems, and write up papers and graphs, the head of an international math teaching school says.
In a recent op-ed in the Times of India, N. Chandrashekar Rao said his students are struggling to grasp the basics of mathematical logic and the concept of probability and that math teachers must not only know how to write proofs but also have a background in physics and chemistry to understand the math underlying the proofs.
Rao, who teaches at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, is one of the leaders of the Indian Math Teachers Association (IMTA), which represents teachers of math in the country.
The association says that over the past two decades, the number of Indian math teachers has dropped by 30 per cent, while the number teaching in the US has risen by about 50 per cent.
In the last two years, Rao says, the percentage of Indian teachers teaching in math has dropped from 10.7 per cent to 8.7 percent, while in the United States it has increased from 7.5 to 8 percent.
According to the Association, there are over 5,000 Indian math teaching teachers, but only about 15,000 math teachers in the U.S. There are approximately 200,000 Indians in the world who have an MA degree, which is required for entry into academia, and only about 200,00 in math, the association says.
The numbers are different for math teachers, which in India are more likely to be from the rural and urban sections of the population.
“Many of our students in the rural areas do not have access to proper textbooks, or their parents cannot afford to pay for it,” Rao says.
Roa says he is concerned about the lack of diversity in the math teacher workforce in India.
“A lack of qualified teachers is a huge problem in our country.
If we do not make sure that the number is sufficient, we are in danger of losing our quality of education and our ability to teach our children,” he says.
According the Association’s annual survey, there were about 9.5 million Indian math and science teachers in 2013.
Of the 5.2 million math teachers globally, only 3.5 per cent of them were women.
The other 6.4 per cent were from lower-income communities, and one in three were from the underprivileged sections.
Roopa’s concern about the shortage of qualified math teachers is echoed by the National Institute of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, which has published an report that says India has a need for an extra 400,000 mathematicians in the next decade.
In fact, in the last decade, the Indian math teacher population has grown by 6.6 million, while its share in the total workforce has decreased by 6 per cent in the same period.
While Rao says the math teachers are underpaid, the report by the institute says the average salary for math teacher is between Rs 1.9 lakh and Rs 2.2 lakh a year.
For students who are part of the under-represented groups, the average teacher salary is about Rs 1,400 a year or Rs 1 million a year, the institute said.
For math teachers who are not from the lower-caste communities, the pay is less, according to the report.
According to the survey, a bachelor’s degree is required to teach in India, and the most recent figures show that only about 50,000 of the country’s 1.2 billion teachers are from the low-income groups.
“This is one reason why the shortage in the Indian mathematics teacher workforce is so serious.
The pay gap is not just about a lack of skill or knowledge.
The math teachers need to have a good education and an experience that can translate into teaching in India,” the report said.
According, in India the minimum salary for a teacher is about $30,000 a year for teachers in all three domains.
The minimum wage for a senior math teacher, which also includes the teacher’s salary, is about £60,000.