Math Club For Future Teachers collaborates to improve math education strategies

Jaden Urbi

Colleges are seeing more and more students being troubled by the transition from high school to college level math courses. The Math Club for Future Teachers was designed to help improve the skills in aspiring mathematics teachers, which will overall contribute to improving the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education system as a whole.

“Increasingly, colleges, universities and community colleges have had a problem with students being able to excel in the college math coursework,” said Dr. Heather Bolles, senior lecturer of mathematics.

The upcoming generations are being encouraged more and more to pursue careers in the STEM fields of study and work, putting a larger emphasis on success in math in the classroom.

According to the STEM Education Coalition, 45% of high school seniors are ready for college level math courses, and only 30% are ready for college level science courses.

The Math Club for Future Teachers tries to meet at least once a month. Typical meetings consist of anywhere from 8 to 22 students engaging in group learning activities and brainstorming with a variety of guest speakers, time for socializing with other students and there’s always free food. Students hoping to pursue mathematical education are encouraged to join. 

Mitchell Huss, sophomore in architecture, did well in math classes throughout high school but found the college math courses much more difficult.

“In high school, the classroom setting was more personal, but in college it was harder to get help if I was struggling with something,” said Huss.

Bolles said this issue is the reason why Iowa State has put some things in place to help students succeed, such as the Center for Excellence in Undergraduate Mathematics Education and the Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces (ALEKS) Placement Exams.

Bolles said that the solution to this problem lies within many different levels, not just one. “It’s a big conversation and it’s not going to go away easily because this is something that involves a national discussion.”

The Math Club for Future Teachers was started a year ago because assistant professors in mathematics, Xuan Hien Nguyen and Steve Butler saw the need to create an organization for mathematics students with an interest in education to network and better prepare them for when they begin teaching. Nguyen, Butler and Bolles have been working together to constantly improve the club.

The Math Club for Future Teachers aspires to strengthen the teaching skills in upcoming math teachers so their students will be better prepared for college and the mathematics that are needed in the work force, especially in STEM focused careers.

The club works to achieve this by brainstorming and introducing new teaching techniques and creating opportunities for other students who share the same interests to network and share their ideas.

Sophomore in mathematics, Brady Reiling has been a member of the club for a semester now. Reiling wants to teach high school math and has found this club very beneficial.

“The people that come in offer a lot of field experience and advice on what to expect,” Reiling said.