What Makes a Good Math Teacher?

Feb 7, 2024 | Littleton

Littleton, CO - The instructors at Mathnasium of Littleton are exceptional math educators and outstanding individuals. How do you as a potential consumer know this? First, every individual desiring to work at our center is required to pass two, sometimes three, rigorous math tests to even be considered as a candidate for employment at our center. The first tests their knowledge of math up through pre-algebra. Potential tutors are required to achieve a score of 85% or higher on this test. The second tests their skills up through pre-calculus. Ideal candidates will score 85% or higher on this test if they want to work with our high school students. Finally, each potential instructor is given several student work samples which they must analyze to determine if the child got the answer correct or not and if it is incorrect figure out what their mistake was and why they might have made it.

These three tests typically take from 2-3 hours to complete although some potential instructors have taken up to 5 hours to finish them (that is usually a sign they are not a good fit for our center). Once the instructor tests are scored, candidates who achieve the requisite grades are then invited back for a formal interview. During this process we are looking to see how well they work with students of varying ages (from rising kindergarteners and elementary students to seniors in high school and adults), how well they can multi-task and change course from teaching numerical fluency to a first grader to working on trigonometry problems with a high schooler, how excited they are about math in general and how much they enjoy sharing their knowledge with others. The more “geeked” they get about math concepts, the better a candidate they are - assuming of course they have a fun and pleasing personality and can explain complicated mathematical concepts in a simple, straightforward manner.

Finally, each instructor has completed 6-9 hours of online training in the Mathnasium Method as well as approximately 20-30 hours of live training at the center. All of us continue our education, both online and in person, to hone our math and teaching skills.

What else should you look for in a good math teacher?

  1. A good math teacher should motivate the math and engage the student. What does that mean? It goes back to them being excited about math concepts and being able to break them down into easy to grasp bit-sized concepts for students. Take the example of solving linear equations. One can start by telling students the formal rules for how to manipulate an equation, but many students will find this very dry, and won't understand why they are doing what they are doing. It becomes an exercise in memorization. Instead, the instructor can start with problems that can be solved with such equations and try to get the student to solve them using other techniques such as guessing and checking or using some sort of graph. After a while the student begins to realize there should be an easier way, which turns out to be solving a linear equation. This way the student understands why the formal math was developed, understands how to apply it, and sees how it is related with other ideas (like graphs).
  2. A good math teacher makes their students do math. It is crucial that every student, in every math class, every day, solve some math problems. Some of these problems should be easy such as practice solving equations once they have been introduced and some should require more creativity. It is of course a mistake to drill students with boring problems until they hate the subject, but it is also a mistake to let them do "interesting" or "discovery based" math all the time, and not make them practice the techniques and skills they have discovered. A soccer coach has his star athletes practicing basic drills even when they are at an elite level. So does a good math coach.
  3. A good math teacher should convey the beauty of the subject. In an ideal world, every math teacher would have “infectious enthusiasm". That would be great, but in reality not all math teachers can be that charismatic. Even without a great deal of charisma, it is possible to show students the wonder of extracting a simple answer from a seemingly difficult question, and the beauty of the tools that help one do this. Often it is enough that students see that their teacher believes this.

Check out our staff on the team page of our website to see just how outstanding our instructors really are! Better yet, stop by the center 7735 W Long Dr (just two doors east of IHOP in the Tony’s Market center) for a complimentary, no-pressure math assessment and see them in action! Call or text 303-979-9077 to make an appointment or use this link to schedule an assessment.