THE ACADEMIC PREPARATION OF MATHEMATICS
FACULTY AT TWO-YEAR COLLEGES
Position Statement of the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges
Statement of Purpose
As the leading professional mathematics organization that solely represents two-year colleges, it is our responsibility to promote the integrity of our profession and the quality of mathematics instruction at all two-year colleges. This document is addressed to two-year college professionals involved in the staffing and evaluation of mathematics programs for their colleges, and to universities that prepare individuals to teach mathematics in two-year colleges. It is not intended to replace any regional, state, or local requirements or recommendations that may apply to hiring faculty, assigning them to classes, or evaluating their performance or qualifications. Rather, our goal is to provide guidelines that reflect the collective wisdom and expertise of mathematics educators throughout the United States and Canada regarding appropriate preparation for two-year college faculty involved in the teaching of mathematics, whether on a full-time or part-time basis.
We strongly recommend that only properly qualified personnel be permitted to teach mathematics. Ill-prepared faculty can do much harm to students' knowledge of, beliefs about, and attitudes towards mathematics. Many two-year college students suffer from mathematics anxiety and core mathematical misconceptions at some level; this could be reinforced or exacerbated through poor mathematics instruction. Individuals trained in other disciplines should have sufficient mathematical training prior to teaching mathematics courses. Moreover, individuals hired to teach mathematics at one level should not be permitted to teach at another level unless they possess appropriate credentials.
Two questions have guided the preparation of this report:
1. What are the characteristics of effective mathematics faculty?
2. How can these characteristics be fostered and extended through academic preparation and continuing professional development?
Effective faculty are reflective; they think about their teaching before they teach, while they teach, and after they teach. They are creative, resourceful, and dedicated. They use a variety of methods and respond to the needs of the particular class and students they are teaching. Effective mathematics teachers are skilled questioners who encourage and challenge their students. They are clear and careful communicators who recognize the importance of language in mathematics, and of mathematics as language. They model the behaviors they wish their students to exhibit, especially through problem solving, exploration, and investigation.
Effective mathematics faculty know a great deal of mathematics and understand the interconnections among its various branches as well as applications to other disciplines. They are continually developing their knowledge and understanding of mathematics, of teaching, and of how students learn. They are independent learners who can adapt and contribute to changes in collegiate mathematics curriculum and instruction. Effective mathematics faculty are active professionals. They belong to and participate in professional organizations such as the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC) and its affiliates; they read journals, attend professional meetings, and engage in other professional activities.
Guidelines for Formal Preparation
Mathematics programs at two-year colleges reflect diverse missions and needs. Mathematics instruction at a comprehensive community college may comprise adult basic education to prepare students for a high school equivalency examination, developmental courses designed to prepare students for both STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and non-STEM college-level courses, and college-level courses through the first two years of university study; some colleges may focus only on a subset of these categories of instruction. Because of this diversity, the guidelines for the mathematical preparation of two-year college faculty must be sufficiently robust to guarantee faculty flexibility. These guidelines are divided into three parts: minimal preparation, standard preparation, and professional development.
All full-time and part-time faculty should possess at least the qualifications listed under minimal preparation. All full-time faculty should begin their careers with at least the qualifications listed under standard preparation. All faculty should continue their education throughout their careers—the continuing formal education section provides some suggestions.
The term faculty is used to refer to persons who hold teaching positions. No particular level within a ranking system is implied.
All full-time and part-time mathematics faculty 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, at least six of which are graduate-level mathematics. A master's degree in applied mathematics or statistics is an appropriate background for teaching in a community college. Course work in pedagogy is desirable.
All full-time mathematics faculty 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 or statistics 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 in the philosophy of the community college is desirable.
All mathematics faculty at two-year colleges should continue their professional development throughout their careers. Appropriate continuing formal education might include graduate course work in mathematics and mathematics education beyond the level of the individual's previous study; courses in some other disciplines served by the two-year college mathematics curriculum may also be appropriate. In some instances advanced formal education may culminate in a doctorate in mathematics or mathematics education.
Effective mathematics faculty are active professionals. They read journals, attend professional meetings, and engage in other activities to continue their education. AMATYC, the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), their affiliates, and other organizations sponsor conferences, offer webinars, mini-courses, and summer institutes, publish books and journals, and advertise other opportunities for continued professional growth. These conferences, webinars, workshops, mini-courses, and institutes address many of the mathematical and pedagogical topics important to quality mathematics instruction in the first two years of college. Participation by two-year college mathematics faculty is critical for keeping up-to-date in their fields.
Courses in physics, engineering, and other fields may contain significant mathematical sciences content. Although there is no simple, set formula for doing so, such courses should be taken into account by two-year college mathematics hiring committees when evaluating a candidate's transcripts. Similarly, such courses should be carefully considered by university personnel when making program admission decisions and advising students who hold or may seek two-year college mathematics teaching positions.
The Course Content of a Preparatory Program
The core of the academic preparation of two-year college mathematics faculty is course work in the mathematical sciences. The mathematics course work for individuals preparing to be two-year college mathematics faculty should include courses chosen from several of the areas listed below. Graduate course work should fill gaps in, broaden, and extend the undergraduate mathematics background of these individuals. The appropriateness of a course is to be determined by its mathematical content, not just its title or prefix.
- Discrete Mathematics
- Computer Science
- Mathematical Modeling and Applications
- Calculus through Vector Calculus
- Differential Equations
- Real Analysis
- Numerical Analysis
- Complex Variables
- Linear Algebra
- Abstract Algebra
- History of Mathematics
- Number Theory
Course work in pedagogy is an important component in the academic preparation of two-year college mathematics faculty. Such course work should be chosen from the areas listed below. Courses in these areas should be offered by universities that prepare two-year college mathematics faculty.
- Psychology of Learning Mathematics
- Methods of Teaching Mathematics
- Organizing and Developing Mathematics Curricula and Programs
- Instructional Technology
- Teaching Developmental Mathematics
- Using Calculators and Computers to Enhance Mathematics Instruction
- Measurement, Evaluation, and Testing
- Teaching Mathematics to Adult Learners
- Teaching Mathematics to Special-Needs Students
- College Mathematics Teaching Seminar
- Mathematics (all disciplines) for Primary and Secondary Teachers.
Specialized knowledge and judgment is required to evaluate a candidate's credentials. For this reason, hiring committees for mathematics positions at two-year colleges should consist primarily of full-time two-year college mathematics faculty. All staffing decisions related to mathematics instruction—whether full-time or part-time—should be made by content specialists.
Ideally, adjunct faculty should possess the same level of preparation and commitment to quality teaching as full-time faculty. The AMATYC Position Statement on Working Conditions of Adjunct Faculty stresses the need for institutional support for professional development for adjunct faculty.
Academic Support Personnel
As community colleges have increased their support for student success the “math lab” has become ubiquitous. The expertise of individuals offering support varies widely. Because the aid offered is often specific to certain levels of mathematics, the academic preparation required of support personnel may be less than faculty. However, it is critical that individuals offering tutoring support in these situations have accomplished coursework above that being tutored, and that these individuals are supervised by fully-qualified mathematics faculty.
Variety of Expertise
A mathematics department should be composed of individuals who possess complementary strengths and areas of expertise. This is especially true in a comprehensive community college with a wide variety of degree programs. A mathematics department with experts or specialists in pedagogy, statistics, computing, applied mathematics, analysis, and pure mathematics is manifestly stronger than one in which all members have similar academic backgrounds. This, together with program-related needs and candidate qualifications, should be taken into account when seeking and hiring full-time and part-time faculty.
This position statement is a revision of Guidelines for the Academic Preparation of Mathematics Faculty at Two-Year Colleges, which was adopted by AMATYC in 1993. Approved by the Delegate Assembly, November 15, 2014.