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Explore Top PhDs in Math Education Online: Best of 2024

If you’re ready to take your career in math education to new heights, an online PhD could be right for you. Learn everything you need to know below.

Search hundreds of top schools for the doctorate YOU want.

Written By

Angela Myers

Last updated

Feb 14, 2024

The need for impactful math educators and curriculum developers who understand the nuances of mathematics and education is at an all-time high. According to data from the National Assessment of Educational Programs, only 39% of fourth graders were proficient or above proficient in math.

Earning a PhD in math education online empowers you to be part of the solution, all from the comfort of their own home. Whether you’re a current educator looking to branch into mathematics or someone with a mathematics background who would like to get into teaching, a PhD in education prepares you to reform math instruction in the classroom or through research and curriculum development. It also prepares you for leadership positions.

While a PhD in math education online offers the flexibility you need to balance a full-time career and your academic aspirations — plus amazing professional opportunities after graduation — not all programs are created equal. In this guide, we explore the best PhD in mathematics education online programs in 2024, outline what to look for in a program, and delve into popular course topics. Keep reading to get started.

School Spotlights: Top Math Education PhDs Online

If the three PhD in mathematics education online programs featured below aren’t already on your list, they should be. They each stand out in terms of curriculum, affordability, and student support resources. Even if they don’t feel like the right fit, you can use them as a quality barometer in your search for the best PhD in math education online for you.

Indiana University Bloomington

Indiana University Bloomington offers robust Ed.D. and PhD in math education programs online. The Ed.D. program prepares students to take on leadership roles in their school district. The curriculum covers research methods and their role in improving math education; effective teaching techniques; mathematical thinking and learning; and problem-solving. Students also take courses on incorporating digital technologies into the math classroom as well as effective assessment techniques.

The PhD program, which takes slightly longer to complete, focuses more on conducting research on K-12 learning. Courses cover topics like how students learn mathematics; student and teacher beliefs about mathematics; and how to better utilize technology in a math classroom.

Since most students are licensed educators, both online programs offer flexible class times and are designed for those with full-time jobs. 

Texas A&M University

The PhD in Curriculum and Instruction: Emphasis in Mathematics Education program at Texas A&M University prepares students to teach and develop curricula at the elementary, middle school, high school, or university level. Courses focus on curriculum theory the history of education, and philosophical theories in education.

After taking foundational courses in each of these topics, students learn to conduct education research and take electives in the research method they intend to use for their dissertation (quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods). Students also choose one area of emphasis for their degree: Teacher Education, History of Education, Technology Education, or Teaching Philosophy. Unlike other online PhD in mathematics education programs, Texas A&M has a heavy focus on technology and prefers students conduct their dissertation on topics related to the role technology plays in mathematics classrooms.

On average, the program costs roughly $5,500 per semester for in-state students and $1,200 for out-of-state students, though these costs can vary and don’t include all student fees.

University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming offers both Ed.D. and PhD in Math Education programs online. The Ed.D. program is an applied program, meaning there’s a heavier focus on application than research. It prepares students to become hands-on mathematics leaders in school districts or other academic settings.

The PhD in Math Education online emphasizes research and is better suited for those who want to become researchers or professors. The University of Wyoming places significant emphasis on curriculum development, especially compared to other programs. Mathematics education is one of four concentrations in the PhD program and as a result, students take courses in education theory and curriculum development as well as math education. While the Ed.D. program does offer foundational theory courses as well, the curriculum is more math centric.

Both programs are offered online and have flexible course times, making them easier to balance with a full-time career. 

Ed.D. vs. PhD: Which Degree Is Right for You?

When looking at PhD in mathematics education online programs, you might notice that some use the acronym Ed.D. instead of PhD.

Technically, an Ed.D. program is different from a PhD program. Ed.D. (or Doctor of Education) programs focus on the practical applications of mathematics education while Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in math education focus on researching educational theories. The former can be completed in just three to four years, while the latter typically takes between five and seven. Northeastern University and the University of Arizona do an excellent job explaining the differences between an Ed.D. and PhD in math education online in greater detail.

Regardless of the path you choose, earning your degree online guarantees you a number of benefits, including flexibility in when and how you learn; the ability to balance academic and professional commitments; and the elimination of commuting costs since they don’t have to go to campus weekly.

Common Courses of Math Education PhD Programs

In any PhD in math education online, you’re likely to take a few common courses. To give you a better idea of what these courses look like, we’ve highlighted the six most common ones below as well as stand-out online, hybrid, and in-person programs for each.

Advanced Topics in Mathematics Education

Most PhD in mathematics education online programs require students to have completed previous coursework in mathematics education. As a result, doctorate programs often cover more advanced topics. At Illinois State University, for example, students can take courses in applied and computational mathematics.

Cognition and Learning in Mathematics

Effective instruction often boils down to understanding the psychology of learning, namely the cognitive processes that occur when students are presented with a new concept. That’s why many programs offer cognition and learning in mathematics courses. Purdue University is just one example of a PhD in math education program with a course on this topic.

Educational Leadership in Mathematics

A doctorate marks someone as an expert and leader in their field. To ensure graduates have the leadership skills necessary to effectively utilize their PhD or Ed.D., many programs offer a course — or multiple courses — in educational leadership. In some programs, the emphasis is on educational leadership in the math classroom, while others place greater emphasis on leadership on the department or district level. The University of Colorado’s hybrid Ed.D. program includes courses on this topic.

History of Education

To understand how to create a better future for math educators, doctoral candidates need to understand the history of the field. To facilitate this understanding, many programs offer a history of education class. Texas State University, for example, has a foundational course in education history as well as multiple electives.

Instruction Theory

A key area of all PhD in mathematics education online programs is education theory. In these courses, doctoral candidates investigate different theories on how and why we learn and study how to apply them to their classrooms or curricula. Many programs, including that at Columbia University, offer courses in instruction theory.

Special Topics and Seminars

What do the University of Georgia and Ohio University have in common? Both offer PhD in math education programs with space for electives and seminars on special topics. Often, these courses allow students to cater their education to their unique interests. Let’s say a student is interested in educational technology — they may be able to utilize their special topic seminars to explore this area further, establishing their expertise in the subspeciality of math education.

Components of an Online PhD in Math Education

While coursework is a key component of PhD in mathematics education online programs, it isn’t the only one. These programs often provide students with experiences in education research and fieldwork, their success in which is measured through final projects and exams. Continue reading to learn more about these components as well as the prerequisites that may apply to your PhD in math education online.

Capstone Project or Dissertation

A key component of PhD in mathematics education online program is the dissertation or capstone project. Dissertations are typically more common and are almost always a requirement for PhD programs. They are often longer projects that take up to three years to complete and must be defended in front of a panel of faculty with expertise on the subject. Take a look at Ashlynn M. Holley’s dissertation on parents’ perceptions of math education for a clearer idea of what this can entail.

A capstone project is a shorter research project that is more common in Ed.D. programs than PhD programs. While it does involve research, students must also apply that research to a real-world setting to satisfy the capstone requirements. 

Comprehensive Examinations

Some PhD and Ed.D. programs in math education may have an end-of-program examination. This exam assesses students’ comprehension of the material delivered in the program and determines if they are qualified to work as experts in the field of math education. Unlike other doctorate programs, like those in psychology, PhD and Ed.D. programs do not have standardized exams at the end of the program. This means each program determines individually whether they want to require an end-of-program exam.

Coursework

The main component of PhD in mathematics education online programs is the coursework. The classes students take prepare them to work in either a practical capacity as classroom instructors or educational leaders, or as researchers. In addition to the six popular courses we detailed above, students often take coursework educational theory and history, research methods, educational psychology, and educational technology.

Internships & Fieldwork

Some programs require students to complete an internship or fieldwork in an educational setting. This component is more common in Ed.D. programs, where students often implement a project in a nearby school district based on what they have learned in their program. While less common in PhD programs, many doctoral students work as teaching or research assistants, gaining insight into how math education experts work in academia.

Prerequisites

To enroll in a Ph.D. in math education online, applicants must meet certain requirements. At many schools, such as the University of Houston, these requirements include previous coursework in math education at the bachelor’s and master’s level; experience working in math or education; a teaching license, though this is not required for all programs; a minimum GPA; and letters of recommendation.

These requirements can vary greatly, which is why it’s always important to explore the requirements for each program.