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Otterbein Offers Degree for Math Teachers to Advance Career

The career of “mathematician” was recently named the best job for 2014, according to rankings by CareerCast.com. Mathematicians, formerly associated with insurance and business professions, are now being sought for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, non-profits and education.    

With the increase in job opportunities for aspiring mathematicians, highly qualified teachers will need to be ready to teach them. Otterbein University is poised to meet the demand through its Masters of Arts in Mathematical Education (MAEM) degree.    

“It’s an advanced degree in mathematics that offers high school teachers and community college faculty, a new path for sharing their passion for the subject with others,” explains Jeff Smith, Ph.D., and MAEM Program Director. “We don’t re-teach or review the mathematics that a teacher already knows. What fun would there be in that?" Instead, he says, "The program is for revealing – looking at the whys and the what-may-be’s. It’s about returning a sense of wonder to familiar content and igniting a curiosity about contemporary mathematics.”

The MAEM degree satisfies the advanced degree requirement for high school teachers wanting to obtain adjunct faculty status, enabling them to teach dual enrollment courses at the college level. Six students enrolled in Otterbein’s MAEM program are currently teaching at Columbus State Community College (CSCC).  

Maria Soisson of Westerville has been teaching developmental education at CSCC since 2001. She also teaches a seventh-grade class at New Albany Middle School. She would like to teach more classes at CSCC, but needs to have a master’s degree.   

“This was the first master’s program that felt right for what I wanted to do with my career. It’s exciting to bring math alive for students, and I was hopeful that this program could help me do that on a deeper level,” she said. “I am very passionate about helping students (of any age) find a positive experience with mathematics.”  

Cameron Kishel, an assistant professor in developmental education at CSCC, already has a master’s degree in mathematics education - not pure mathematics. “The MAEM degree suited me perfectly in that it was for currently practicing math teachers, had the required number of hours in pure math, and was scheduled in the evenings after school and during the summer,” he said.

“My favorite math class in this program was Great Theorems in Mathematics, taught by Dr. Ryan Berndt. It was absolutely amazing to study proofs as they would have been approached in their historical time period. This course gave me a new respect for the intuition and minds of the greatest  mathematicians. I now have faces and stories to associate with the mathematics I love,” Kishel said.  

Specialization certificates are offered in this area for teachers, regardless of whether they are pursuing the MAEM program. These certificates are of particular benefit to middle-grades teachers looking to transition to teaching high school, or current high school teachers preparing for a shift in academic duties.

Chris Copeland, also enrolled in the program, credits many full-time math professors at CSCC with helping him with his decision in choosing Otterbein. “CSCC is very impressed with Otterbein’s program,” he stated.  

The popularity of this degree can be attributed to its unique design, Smith explains. When he and Dr. Zengxing Tong, Professor of Mathematical Sciences were developing the program, they wanted “not simply content, not merely pedagogy, but a marriage of how best to teach and how students best learn mathematics.”    

“With mathematics education, the modifier ‘mathematics’ describes a restricted realm of study within education,” Smith explained. “Educational mathematics, however, refers to how studying a subject (mathematics) can result in a type of liberated thinking and living (educational). By focusing on the discipline and exploring it in fresh and vibrant ways, we experience a math that leads forth both us and our students.”  

To find out more about MAEM or other degrees offered through The Graduate School at Otterbein, visit www.otterbein.edu/graduate or call (614) 823-3210 or e-mail grad@otterbein.edu