## CSETMathGuru: THE Site for Single Subject Math

**How Good in Math must one be?**

I understand the general apprehensiveness of candidates about taking a specialized Math test probably long after advanced topics ceased to be familiar. But it shall buck you up to know that from my interactions with hundreds of prospective Math teachers for the CSET in the last 4 years, about 90%+ of these chaps are either

a) Elementary [/ Middle School] teachers, with very rudimentary Algebra skills, who WANT to pass the CSET since they wish to teach at a Middle [/High School] level

OR

b) Middle / High School teachers, with very rudimentary Algebra skills, who HAVE to pass the CSET [so that they might satisfy the requirements of the No Child Left Behind mandate]

OR

c) non-teaching professionals - accountants, lawyers, bankers, engineers, managers, etc - seeking a mid-life career change, again, with very rudimentary Algebra skills!

Bottom-line: for the majority of my correspondents, a considerable time has elapsed since they took Math classes, with their current Math skill-level rather middling, even though they did reasonably well in the past. That is, they possess quite robust mathematical aptitude, only the techniques are somewhat "rusty"!

Here's what it takes to succeed:

a) ~125-150 hours of concentrated study for Subtest I and 100+ hours of intensive study for Subtest II [um, astute observers shall distinguish "concentrated" and "intensive"...Oh, I jest!]

b) if you're currently employed full-time, considering those constraints, ~2 hours of skills-reinforcement DAILY + ~4-6 of skills-reinforcement on WEEKENDS

or

if you're employed part-time [or not at all], ~4 hours of skills-reinforcement DAILY [weekdays and weekends].

If self-study is an issue, then I would recommend taking the requisite courses at a community college, or if time i.o.t.e. perhaps, secure a tutor if individualized instruction is preferable.

Being "good" is a function of proficiency [subject matter mastery] and pedagogy [teaching ability: communication skills], and the former doesn't imply the latter, but I imagine lack of it shall vitiate learning grievously. So content knowledge is simply a prerequisite.

Novice teachers shan't be assigned upper-level Math classes [Algebra II or higher] initially [read: 3+ years, often even longer!]. With a commitment to learn and grow, however, one frequently "blossoms" into a reasonably effective teacher. Like in an apprenticeship, it's only after year 3 or 4 that one hits one's stride and gets somewhat fluent with the "language" [in all its connotations!].

A non-Math major colleague of mine - whom I respect immensely - solves ALL the problems from the following day's exercises the night before, and actually REHEARSES a "script" of sorts. On occasion, she seeks my help to grasp subtleties and nuances of a concept - how does one distinguish Permutations and Combination, for instance (a source of common confusion!) - and she asks very penetrating Qs of the

*Why*and

*How*kind, endeavouring to anticipate queries students might conceive. Not surprisingly, she has one of the highest class averages and pass rates in the Math department.

In a lot of ways, teaching is an "act": prepare really well to avoid being "booed"!

Bottomline: it isn't beastly hard at all to pass the Math subtests, especially for those with a mathematical/problem-solving 'mindset' or background. One just ought to have assimilated certain key concepts in each topic area and be able to apply them - um...come to think of it, that doesn't sound terribly profound, and is so much inconsequential blather, sorry! (As terms of my parole, I have to perforce dash out a certain number of words - I'm kidding!!!)

But chaps that've taken the test more than once shall bear me out when I assert that there's a definite pattern in the CSET questions - for instance, the 1st 3 MCQs in Subtest 1 is all but assured to be from the dreaded - not to mention, utterly hrrid and dreadful! - topic of Groups, Rings and Fields, which as I've stated before one must studiously IGNORE - oh, make an educated guess by all means! - without an ounce of futile regret!!

I imagine some Math fellow sitting somewhere cold and inhospitable, rubbing his hands in sinister satisfaction, titillated that

*his*Abstract Algebra questions offer the most insurmountable obstacle to the candidates!!

As I say elsewhere, the FR questions in Subtest 1 are very likely to do with quadratics/parabolas, solving cubic/biquadratic eqns for their roots, graphing rational functions, linear programming, mathematical induction and such!

Mastering topics such as these would stand you in very good stead!

I've heard sob stories from poor blokes about how a certain edition of the test was replete with more 'obscure' - I employ the term loosely, naturally! - topics like vectors and matrices, but in my experience, just a working knowledge with those topics would amply suffice - finding an angle between 2 vectors, splitting a vector into its component elements, knowledge of solving systems of eqns. using Elementary Row Transformations (I trust I'm not scaring fellows away!!) and Cramer's Rule (determinants).

Ditto, for the other 2 subtests!

Re the AP analogy, I suppose it's fair to say that re the CSET it's OK to merely score a 3! Who'd know?!! (I have students that glibly declare that they passed an AP exam, and only on persistent questioning do they confess that it was with a 3, and were they surprised that they passed!!)