Mathematics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm an English major trying to make the transition to Elementary School teaching. For as long as I can remember, I've been extremely math-anxious and I've only done the bare-minimum level of Math work needed to get my degree. Because teaching Math is a requirement for every Elementary School teacher in the US, I'd like to start improving my mathematical competence now.

I was hoping someone could recommend a good pre-calculus textbook for someone who's looking into re-teaching themselves the foundations of math. I'm not doing this to pass some test, I'd just like to improve my math skills across the board so I'm better able to pass on the knowledge to my students.

Thanks for your time!

share|cite|improve this question
Same question on MO – Martin Feb 2 '13 at 8:37
Tangentially, I would add that teaching a good attitude toward mathematics is important. The novel "Math Girls" (Hiroshi Yuki) does an excellent job showing how to teach the right attitude toward learning mathematics. The math varies between algebra I and results of Leonhard Euler (which might require at least calculus II to fully appreciate), but it still gets good reviews by people who can't following the higher mathematics. – Michael E2 Feb 2 '13 at 16:38
I strongly recommend that you get and read the following book. (It's fairly well known, so you might already know about it.) Liping Ma, Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics, 2nd edition, 2010. – Dave L. Renfro Feb 4 '13 at 20:57

I recommend:

this book has been used for years at UGA to prepare elementary teachers in a comprehensive way, and has been recognized as possibly the best book of its type in the country by the National Council on Teacher Quality. The UGA program in math ed is similarly recognized.

Although NCTQ has been criticized by some groups representing teachers' unions and colleges of education for its support of teacher evaluation by merit and student achievement, I agree with their recognition of the quality of this book, and as a professional mathematician I also specifically recommend it, having read and taught from it.

This is not a "precalculus" book, but a book meant to teach understanding of all aspects of math taught in elementary school, including multiplication, positional notation, elementary geometry, etc....

For comparison, Chen's notes begin with assuming the reader is familiar with real numbers, while Beckmann's begins as I recall by asking how many handshakes occur when each person in a party of 20 shakes once with each other.

share|cite|improve this answer

I am a current undergraduate in Asia, so I really do not know the syllabus in USA. However, if you're looking for algebra, you could visit Khan Academy for might need an email to subscribe, but it's a very good place to start. Their video tutorials are good. Alternatively, you can try The New Boston's Algebra Tutorials List. These days, video tutorials are much easier to get than books (at least for me).

Grab a notebook, try out the questions, ask here if you're not sure (but be sure to express in terms of LaTeX! Trust me, it's useful especially here. Practise and practise, I think you will be well occupied for the next 3 months or so.

Good luck!

share|cite|improve this answer

I have some online mathematics exercises / tutorials (autocorrected), ranging from kindergarten to college, at:

Also, the material is public-domain. You can copy the entire website if you like and alter it to fit your own purposes.

share|cite|improve this answer

The lecture notes by William Chen are well written. You might want to look at what the Trillia Group has to offer (there are many links there). The Mathematical Association of America also has many on-line resources. Or look for material to prepare for assorted mathemathics olympiads (those are hard problems, be prepared to elementary, but by no means simple, treatments). Rummage in the "Related" links to your question ;-)

Do ask here when you get lost. Good luck!

share|cite|improve this answer
These items seem too advanced for someone who will be teaching things like long division of integers, addition of fractions, the multiplication table, etc. Indeed, depending on what grade Michael intends to teach, he may be teaching counting, addition and subtraction of small positive integers, etc. I also realize he said "precalculus" (basic limits would be the most advanced topic, BTW), but I suspect he would be better off learning very well the foundations of the mathematics he will actually be teaching (hence, I recommended Liping Ma's book above). – Dave L. Renfro Feb 4 '13 at 21:07
@DaveL.Renfro, seems I overlooked the Elementary School part :-( Perhaps Pólya's classic "How to solve it" is useful in any case. – vonbrand Feb 4 '13 at 22:46
O-K, that explains it. Incidentally, I commented because I didn't want the original poster to feel too intimidated about this site or his plans based on the answers he got. In general I'm somewhat concerned about someone who is extremely math-anxious wanting to teach children, but his comments alleviate much of that concern for me. – Dave L. Renfro Feb 4 '13 at 23:03

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.