Joanne Jacobs has a lively discussion going on about how much math elementary school teachers need to know. A new study out of Michigan State University finds that prospective elementary and middle-school teachers in the U.S. know very little math, especially compared to their counterparts in many other countries. For some parents who have tried to help their kids with homework, it’s likely disconcerting to discover that their child’s teacher may not know much more than they do.
Deborah Loewenberg Ball, dean of the University of Michigan School of Education, is the leading scholar on what math teachers need to know to teach math well. Yes, they need to know the math. But they also need to know it in a special way so that they can use students’ wrong answers to diagnose the flaws in students’ conceptual understanding.