Top graduates are to be offered £20,000 scholarships to train for a career teaching maths, it has been announced.

Around 150 of the scholarships are to be offered to graduates with first-class or 2:1 degrees, as part of a Government drive to improve standards of teaching in the classroom.

The new incentive is being offered by the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) in collaboration with the London Mathematical Society (LMS) and the Royal Statistical Society (RSS).

Applicants will be required to show a strong mathematical background, an excellent understanding of mathematics and statistics at school level, and a commitment to education and teaching, and the institutions will also offer them support in training and early career as well as free access to journals, conferences and events.

The scholarship comes as part of the coalition Government's teacher training strategy, following the earlier announcement of similar schemes for physics, chemistry and computer science teachers.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: "High-quality mathematics education is at the heart of improving our society and our economy.

"By working together, these prestigious institutions will help deliver a scholarship scheme to make sure we have excellent mathematics teachers in this country with deep subject knowledge.

"It will help raise the status of the teaching profession and also make a huge difference in the lives of children."

Following earlier reforms designed to improve teacher training, the Department for Education said that 62% of those entering training to teach maths had 2:1 degrees or better, compared to 51% in 2010/11.

The chief executive of the Teaching Agency, Charlie Taylor, said: "Teaching has changed - it is now a career of choice for our top graduates.

"It offers a rewarding career for people with talent and ambition.

"We want the brightest and the best graduates with a strong mathematics background to join the profession.

"These scholarships will help us to do this."

Nigel Steele, honorary secretary for education at the IMA, said: "Mathematics, through its applications, already contributes massively to the UK economy.

"Research also shows that those who do well at mathematics at school are likely to earn significantly more than their peers.

"The scholarship scheme designed by the IMA, on behalf of its collaborating bodies, will attract highly-qualified graduates and career-changers who might not otherwise have considered teaching as a career.

"These scholars will help strengthen the mathematics teaching force in its capacity to inspire those who will determine the future."