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AMATYC has a draft position statement on the academic preparation of mathematics faculty at two-year colleges that will be voted on soon, if it hasn't happened already. The draft is attachment L in these minutes.

The draft states in part:

All full-time mathematics instructors at two-year colleges should begin their careers with at least a master's degree in mathematics or in a related field with at least 30 semester hours (45 quarter hours) in graduate level mathematics and have mathematics teaching experience at the secondary or collegiate level. The teaching experience may be fulfilled through a program of supervised teaching as a graduate student. Just as a strong knowledge of Calculus has always been a core standard, Statistics has become equally important, and some background in this area is desirable. Course work in pedagogy and the community college is desirable.

Does this position preclude a master's degree in math education without 30 hours of graduate level mathematics courses, but perhaps with a lot of undergraduate math and teaching experience? The ambiguity for me lies in the "at least a master's degree in mathematics". Between the fields of mathematics and math education, neither is greater than the other. So I assume the "at least" refers to the tiers of master's and doctorate degrees. And at this point of the statement I want to know if the field of mathematics education is included in "mathematics", or if it has to be amongst the "related fields".

I would be asking this community for its interpretation, but opinion-based questions are not for Stack Exchanges. Instead I am asking if anyone in this community knows the intent of AMATYC.

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  • $\begingroup$ "at least 30 semester hours ... in graduate level mathematics" seems pretty clear to me. But I am interested in why you would like math ed to count. $\endgroup$ – Sue VanHattum Sep 20 '14 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ @SueVanHattum It's true that I'd like to allow those with a math ed master's to at least apply to teach at the CC where I work, provided that they have something like a bachelor's in math and a fair amount of math teaching experience. But I'm not arguing that this is what AMATYC's draft says. This is a revision of something that was written in 1986--1993, and I'd like to know if active AMATYC members even considered modern math ed degrees. This section is pretty much unchanged from the 1993 release. I need to contact AMATYC people directly, but this .SE seemed appropriate too. $\endgroup$ – alex.jordan Sep 20 '14 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ @alex.jordan Perhaps if you get a direct answer from AMATYC, then you will be post it here (good answers are welcomed on SE, even if they come from the OP). $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Dickman Sep 20 '14 at 23:32
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    $\begingroup$ @BenjaminDickman I posted an email response from an AMATYC executive board member. $\endgroup$ – alex.jordan Sep 21 '14 at 21:11
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After writing an email, I received a response from Ernie Danforth, the NE regional vice president of AMATYC which answer my question.

Keep in mind these are GUIDELINES, they are not hard and fast rules.

No mathematics education courses do not count as mathematics preparation, although they are still considered valuable.

You are correct that under the guidelines; neither bachelor's degrees or master's degrees in mathematics education are considered Standard Preparation (incidentally this has not changed since the guidelines were first adopted in 1993).

I am not sure what you consider a large amount of work experience. It can be teaching a few courses as a graduate assistant, but more than just running tutoring sessions.

And, yes, the expectation of the standard preparation does include a good deal of graduate level mathematics.

Does this answer your question? If not, let me know and I will try to clarify further. I will also be running the session to review the guidelines in Nashville.

Ernie Danforth NE Region Vice President

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A graduate degree does not necessarily correlate closely with knowledge of the subject. It's common for people with a master's in math education to be hired at a community college despite simply not knowing calculus. Something like half of people interviewing for a tenure-track position will flub a question that probes their knowledge of first-semester calculus. On the other hand, I have a bachelor's in math and physics and a PhD in physics, zero graduate work in math -- but I teach calculus as well as physics. Of course I'm biased, but I consider myself pretty competent to teach calculus; if anything, the challenge is to bring myself down to the level of students who write PEMDAS in the margin of their paper in order to remember the order of operations.

We see the same lack of close correlation when we interview people for physics jobs. We've had applicants with graduate degrees in physics, even PhDs, who nevertheless demonstrated elementary misconceptions about Newton's third law (e.g., that it involves equilibrium), or who couldn't use Gauss's law to find the field of a point charge.

Community colleges are odd beasts. We do a lot of different things, including transfer-level and non-transfer courses, remedial courses, vocational courses, and courses that exist simply to serve the community. If someone with a master's in math ed is going to teach remedial math for the next 30 years, and will be happy doing that, it's not necessarily a bad thing. Possibly someone with a PhD would go nuts doing that. But it would be a bad thing IMO if a department became packed with too many faculty with master's degrees in math ed.

California has quite a few rural community colleges that are very small, and I suspect that the FSA rules are as loose as they are partly so that those schools can hire one person to teach more than one subject.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for your response. I can say a few things that are related. The problem (for us) is not too many math ed degrees, but too few. It's interesting to bring up CA, because they are one of the large systems that explicitly accepts masters in math ed. Meanwhile in TX they often have a separate department for pre-college level math. While their math departments adhere to IQs that require graduate training in math, their "developmental" departments do not. I suspect that AMATYC's standards are written with math depts like Texas's in mind, and not Texas's dev. dept. or combined depts. $\endgroup$ – alex.jordan Sep 21 '14 at 0:45
  • $\begingroup$ But the point I see in your first paragraph is spot on in my mind. Credentials are not as telling as they are made out to be. I'd like to prevent HR from tossing out math ed degree holder applications before I'd ever get the chance to at least look at them. $\endgroup$ – alex.jordan Sep 21 '14 at 0:48
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    $\begingroup$ Interesting that Texas often has separate departments for college level and remedial math. California doesn't, AFAIK. Texas's system makes a lot of sense. The two missions are fundamentally different. $\endgroup$ – Ben Crowell Sep 21 '14 at 15:57
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I'd say you should look also at the "Minimal Qualifications" section, which seems to be very very lenient toward the amount of graduate mathematics taken:

All full- and part-time mathematics instructors at two-year colleges should possess at least a master's degree in mathematics or in a related field with at least 18 semester hours (27 quarter hours) in graduate-level courses strongly related to mathematics, and at least six of which are graduate-level mathematics.

In the end, they are only requiring two graduate mathematics courses, with the rest of the graduate courses allowed to be "strongly related to mathematics." I think that's incredibly low, and certainly not restrictive of math education degrees.

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  • $\begingroup$ I hadn't noticed "strongly related"---thank you. $\endgroup$ – alex.jordan Sep 21 '14 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ @alex.jordan I still think it would be good for someone who knows an AMATYC board member to try to get a little insight on the intentions of the policy though. So don't close the question just yet. $\endgroup$ – Chris Cunningham Sep 21 '14 at 18:16
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed, and I posted an email response from an AMATYC executive board member. $\endgroup$ – alex.jordan Sep 21 '14 at 21:09

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