An effective mathematics teacher preparation program provides candidates with opportunities to learn mathematics and statistics that are purposefully focused on essential big ideas across content and processes that foster a coherent understanding of mathematics for teaching.
A high-quality preparation program for beginning teachers of mathematics for upper elementary grades provides opportunities for them to learn mathematics, focusing on both the big ideas in mathematics for those grades and the mathematical processes to make sense of mathematics in preparation to teach students.
Effective programs preparing teachers of mathematics at the upper elementary level include coursework and other experiences focused on key mathematical ideas and skills that are pivotal in those grades. [Elaboration of P.2.1]
Because well-prepared beginning teachers must have substantial mathematical knowledge and skills as well as sound mathematical dispositions, programs must include 12 credits of coursework from a mathematics department (CBMS, 2012) and other experiences that support the development of ideas and skills that are pivotal to upper-elementary-grades teaching. For quite some time, professional organizations have called for opportunities for candidates to develop mathematical perspectives on the nature of mathematics as a discipline; the evolving nature of mathematics, especially given technological advances; and the nature of school mathematics (NCTM, 1991). Although it is important for programs to continue to implement the recommendations of the MET II report (CBMS, 2012), programs also must assure that candidates are not merely putting in seat-time but instead are developing deep understandings of these important concepts in ways that are usable in, and crucial for, effective teaching.
Given the role that upper elementary grades teachers play in supporting the learning of the next generation of mathematicians and mathematically astute citizens, members of a broad base of professional groups have argued that consistent, serious, and focused work on mathematics must be part of elementary school teacher preparation. Teachers preparing to teach in these grade-bands must develop mathematical knowledge that not only spans the grade levels but also provides them opportunities to understand big ideas (Charles, 2005) that unify mathematics across grade-band divides.
Also crucial is that opportunities to learn mathematics are geared to the development of mathematical knowledge that is usable in teaching (Ball et al., 2008). Courses must include opportunities for candidates to engage in activities such as unpacking multiple approaches to common mathematical tasks, examining multiple representations of a particular concept, exploring mathematical ideas through real-world contexts, explaining their solution strategies, and taking up and checking their understandings of the mathematical ideas of others.