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The Road Less Traveled

By Jeff Smith, Ph.D., MAEM Program Director

For math teachers, few options exist for an advanced degree that honors both their roots in education and in mathematics. A Master’s in Education offers learning about teaching and learning. A Master’s in Mathematics prepares working mathematicians. 

Otterbein created a new path for high school teachers and community college faculty passionate about mathematics who have a strong desire to share the power of that passion with others. 

Otterbein’s Master of Arts in Educational Mathematics (MAEM) is a math degree for mathematics teachers. We challenge students to examine topics that they teach in deeper and more meaningful ways -- to approach math as an artful scientist.

We don’t reteach or review the mathematics that a teacher already knows - what fun would there be in that? Our program is for revealing. Looking at the whys and the what-may-be’s, allows students to return to a sense of wonder about subjects familiar and to ignite a curiosity about those that are not. Courses model instruction that emphasizes being a mathematician, an infectious way of living in real and imagined worlds!

Otterbein’s very own Dr. Zengxiang Tong coined the phrase “Educational Mathematics” in a conversation about developing a program underscoring the importance of pedagogical content knowledge in mathematics. Not simply content, not merely pedagogy, we wanted a marriage of how best to teach (and how students best learn) mathematics. Because we were trying truly to build a program from scratch, Dr. Tong suggested we adopt the heretofore unused phrase of educational mathematics. 

In the end, it really comes down to how educational mathematics differs from mathematics education. The nouns and the modifiers are key to understanding the subtle - and yet profound - difference. With mathematics education, the modifier “mathematics” describes a restricted realm of study within “education.” 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.