Educators have long claimed that good teaching is the key to higher student achievement, as well as to other positive student outcomes, such as moral values and tolerance. Economists also have bought into this argument (Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2007; Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2005; Wright, Horn, & Sanders, 1997). Although not all economists agree that higher salaries are associated with better teaching (see, for example, Hanushek, 2006), there seems to be, even on this matter, a shift in their thinking toward the notion that using monetary incentives to reward good teaching is a means of recruiting better-prepared individuals into teaching (Lavy, 2005). Increasingly, it seems acceptable to argue that teaching quality may be higher in countries that pay teachers more (especially in return for greater competence) than the pay received by competing professionals.
The reverse side of this coin is the common complaint in the literature that a significant proportion of mathematics middle school and secondary teachers are not sufficiently well trained in subject matter to teach higher level arithmetic concepts, introductory algebra, and introductory geometry to seventh and eighth graders (Organisation for Economic Co operation and Development (OECD), 2003). Yet, some nations are better able than others to supply many more of these “elements” of mathematics knowledge to teachers.
Some countries may “purchase” higher levels of teacher mathematics knowledge because it is inexpensive to do so. The price of attracting more “mathematics- oriented” individuals into teaching may be lower in certain countries than in others because market demand for mathematics-intensive professions is relatively low. Also, even with relatively high demand, the supply of mathematics-oriented professionals in some countries may be high because past investments have created a young labor force well prepared in mathematics, thus making it relatively inexpensive in those countries to train almost any high school graduate to become not only a “good” mathematics professional but also a good mathematics teacher.