On the first day of class I ask my students, “How many of you plan to be elementary school teachers?” They all have their hands raised. “Raise them high. Everyone with your hand raised is going to be a math teacher.” Then I continue, “Keep your hand raised if math is your favorite or best subject.” Typically they all fall.

We then have a frank discussion about their anxiety or general dislike of math. Invariably someone shares a bad experience and then others pile on. There is usually, to the person, a story about an elementary or middle school teacher who had a negative impact. They weren’t patient, they didn’t explain something well, they were intolerant of different methods, etc. We then come to the agreement that no one in the room wants to be “that person” for a child they teach. We set a sense of urgency, not that they need to love math, but that they need to understand it and be able to explain it well.

In this class, it’s helpful is to get students talking about math topics, using math language, and directing them to find places for information how to learn topics better for themselves or for their future students. I have my students all pick a math topic of their choosing to talk about for 4-5 minutes. It can be recreational, historical, educational, really anything they want. However, they need to provide a source list for their talk.

I also use a portfolio as a major part of their grade in the class. Over the semester they collect information and put it in a reference binder or on a USB. Some typical components I might use are below. (I’m in the State of NJ but you can adapt to your state).

NCTM Executive Summary

Sample test questions, NJASK, PARCC

PRAXIS NJ requirements for license

Contact info for NCTM, AMTNJ, South Jersey Math Alliance

Compile a list of websites with math lesson plans

Children’s books in mathematics

Math Day activities

Marilyn Burns lesson plan or list of books

Contact info for a Math Manipulatives vendor

Sample lesson from Everyday Math site

Math Counts Toolbox

24 or Equate game

List of math related apps

Cut the Knot interactive puzzles

One Cultural History and One Biography link, Math Anxiety Suggestions

Dr. Math

Khan Academy or YouTube links