Improving the Preparation of Teachers of Mathematics

Efforts to improve mathematics teacher preparation must be rooted in the fundamental assumptions described in Chapter 1 and listed in Table 9.1.

Table 9.1. Assumptions About Preparing Teachers of Mathematics




Ensuring the success of each and every learner requires a deep, integrated focus on equity in every program that prepares teachers of mathematics.


Teaching mathematics effectively requires career-long learning.


Learning to teach mathematics requires a central focus on mathematics.


Multiple stakeholders must be responsible for and invested in preparing teachers of mathematics.


Those involved in mathematics teacher preparation must be committed to improving their effectiveness in preparing future teachers of mathematics.

Foremost among these assumptions is the attention to equity, reflecting a growing consensus within the mathematics education community of the need to confront an education system that marginalizes and disenfranchises a significant part of our citizenry (AMTE, 2015; NCTM, 2000, 2014a, 2014b). Throughout this document, attention to equity, diversity, and social justice issues has been a central focus, both specifically addressed as standards and embedded within all the standards. This focus has been maintained through the grade-band elaborations and in the discussion of assessment. Those involved in preparing teachers of mathematics cannot hope to make substantial improvement toward the vision of this document without placing issues of equity, diversity, and social justice front and center. Dealing with these issues with integrity requires more than a new slogan or policy statement. It requires honest and sometimes painful reflection on our beliefs, implicit assumptions and biases, and current practices in light of these standards to consider how our work affects the progress of the mathematics teacher candidates we are preparing in supporting the learning of each and every student they teach and how to innovate when necessary to improve what we are doing.

Equity needs to become a lens through which all aspects of programs preparing teachers of mathematics are viewed. The question “How effective was this experience in cultivating the teacher candidate’s ability to support each and every learner?” needs to become central when decisions about programs are made.

The other assumptions provide additional context for improvement efforts. Although the focus of this document has been on well-prepared beginning teachers, mathematics teacher preparation must be visualized as a continuum in which program completion is only the first step, as stated in the second assumption. A systemic view of teacher preparation is needed that extends from initial preparation to induction into the field to long-term professional learning. The third assumption states that although mathematics teacher preparation takes place within the context of teacher preparation more generally, the central focus on mathematics teaching and content must be maintained. Efforts successful for preparing teachers of reading, for example, may not be successful for preparing teachers of mathematics. The emphasis on partnerships found in the fourth assumption was reinforced in Standard P.1 and is also a focus of this final section. Efforts at improvement must engage not only mathematics teacher educators but also mathematicians; other teacher educators; program and school administrators; classroom teachers, including special education teachers; families and communities; policymakers; and others in the educational system.

Finally, this document should serve as a springboard for improvement, as stated in the final assumption. It should serve as a mirror in which all those involved in mathematics teacher preparation can closely examine what they are doing and how they can improve. Merely using the document to justify what is already happening while explaining away areas in which the vision is not being met will not be productive. Likewise, while focusing on what is effective can be encouraging, it will not ultimately spur the kind of deep reflection that leads to improvement. These standards should motivate a close look at what a program is accomplishing and how it can improve. Without a commitment to using the document to improve the practice of preparing teachers of mathematics, its purpose will not be realized.