The University of Chicago, UIC, and DePaul University are collaboratively drafting a set of courses to prepare Illinois teachers who have the current K–9 teaching certificate or who will have the new Grades 1–6 license to be elementary math specialists. The math specialist model is focused on a “specialized-teaching-assignment” model. In this model, an elementary mathematics specialist teaches mathematics in a departmentalized arrangement, and thus does not require any additional personnel. Adopting this model can enable districts to simultaneously address instructional improvement efforts in mathematics and other subjects without overwhelming individual teachers or district resources. The model is designed to create a cadre of well-prepared teachers who can provide some overall leadership for their school’s mathematics program.
The program includes two year-long courses focused on deepening teachers’ content and pedagogical knowledge for teaching mathematics. These two content courses will emphasize building an understanding of how children learn elementary school mathematics as well as how to diagnose and support children’s learning, and are connected to the implementation of both the content and practices embedded in the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. The other course in the sequence is a semester-long course focused on developing leadership capacity.
Outcomes for program participants include:
- Becoming confident mathematics teachers who possess both a deep knowledge of mathematics and of how children learn mathematics;
- Proving a laboratory-like setting in their classroom that makes their teaching public in well-planned and deliberate ways to showcase high-quality mathematics instruction;
- Building a vision for what a Common Core mathematics classroom looks like;
- Feeling prepared to work collaboratively with their colleagues to design and provide professional development; and to support individual teachers, schools, and districts in improving their mathematics instruction.
The courses under development are being designed to provide well-qualified individuals to teach in “specialized” settings in schools and districts that have set up structures for departmentalized mathematics instruction.