Policymakers are increasingly focused on education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—often referred to as STEM subjects—as a vital mechanism for improving the nation’s long-term economic competitiveness. Government and business leaders, alike, have voiced concern that too few teachers assigned to teach STEM-related subjects majored in those subjects in college. Past research suggests that secondary teachers be knowledgeable about the subjects they teach to raise student academic performances.
Technology Counts 2008 provides information about teachers of STEM subjects. This Stat of the Week highlights the proportion of in-field teaching assignments in mathematics in the 2003-04 school year. An in-field teaching assignment in mathematics means that a teacher with a major in mathematics teaches the subject. Public school teachers with a main or secondary assignment in grades 7-12 departmentalized instruction were included in the data, while teachers majoring in “math education” were not counted as majoring in mathematics. The data are reported in Technology Counts 2008, and were calculated by the Council of Chief State School Officers, using the U.S. Department of Education’s Schools and Staffing Survey 2003-04.
SOURCE: Council of Chief State School Officers, 2007
On average, roughly 60 percent of U.S. mathematics teachers majored in mathematics in college. However, the proportion of math teachers who majored in their subject varies substantially from state to state. In nine states, fewer than half of the states’ mathematics teachers majored in mathematics. New Mexico, Washington, and Arizona were on this bottom end of the spectrum, with 36 percent, 40 percent, and 42 percent of state math teachers having majored in mathematics, respectively. On the other end of the spectrum, in six states over three-quarters of state mathematics teachers majored in math. Minnesota had the highest proportion (86 percent), followed by North Dakota (80 percent), and Rhode Island (79 percent).
Given the growing global economic competition, these results may suggest more aggressive measures are needed to ensure that all mathematics teachers have majors in their assigned field. To learn more about STEM-related issues and state technology policies, check out Technology Counts 2008 and the EPE Research Center’s Education Counts database.