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Examining and addressing the content knowledge development needs of Florida's aspiring and newly-qualified mathematics teachers

PI Catherine Paolucci

This project aims to support content knowledge development for secondary mathematics teachers, particularly those whose pathway to certification has included limited post-secondary studies of mathematics. 

This project aims to support content knowledge development for secondary mathematics teachers, particularly those whose pathway to certification has included limited post-secondary studies of mathematics. Initially, it will focus on teachers in Florida who do not have a degree in mathematics or a relevant field and have earned temporary certification by taking the 6-12 Mathematics Subject Area Exam (SAE-Math). Longer term, it aims to serve teachers with similar backgrounds on a national level.  

Researchers recognize mathematical knowledge as an influential factor in teachers’ classroom practice (Ball, Thames & Phelps, 2008; Goldsmith, Doerr, & Lewis, 2014; Lampert, 2001) and have established the potential for advanced mathematical studies to positively impact their mathematical knowledge for teaching (Paolucci, 2015). Therefore, it is reasonable to expect teachers with little or no mathematical studies beyond their own K-12 mathematics education to require support similar to that needed by out-of-field mathematics teachers – qualified teachers assigned to teach mathematics when it does not match their subject area training (Hobbs & Törner, 2019; Ní Ríodáin, Paolucci, & O’Dwyer, 2017). This is of particular concern given links between out-of-field teaching and teacher quality and research suggesting that teachers most often teach out of field in schools where students are already underserved (Ingersoll, 2002; Nguyen & Redding, 2018).  

In Florida, aspiring mathematics teachers with undergraduate degrees in unrelated fields can still earn temporary certification by passing the SAE-Math, which allows them to immediately begin teaching. Many then enroll in programs designed to meet professional certification requirements (e.g. UF’s Educator Preparation Institute (EPI)); however, because they have passed the SAE-Math, no content-focused coursework is required. As a result, preparation for the SAE-Math can be the primary means by which they develop the content knowledge needed to teach, prior to entering the classroom.  

With this in mind, this project aims to examine the content knowledge development needs of Florida’s temporarily certified mathematics teachers, with a focus on those who were required to take the SAE-Math because they did not have an undergraduate degree in or related to mathematics. The following short-term goals apply to work expected to be completed during the 12-month CRIF funding period: 

Goal 1: Establish baseline trends in the mathematical backgrounds, knowledge, and experiences of Florida’s aspiring and newly-certified mathematics teachers to better understand their content knowledge development needs.  

This is valuable information for mathematics teacher educators and teacher education programs throughout Florida committed to offering professional certification pathways that better support content knowledge development. 

Goal 2: Create an online dynamic assessment tool that addresses gaps and weaknesses in alternatively- certified teachers’ content preparation and supports content knowledge development aligned with Florida’s B.E.S.T. standards. 

Outcomes from these two goals will inform preparation of a federal funding proposal with the following long-term goals that build on the work completed during the CRIF funding period: 

Goal 3: Expand and measure the statewide impact of the dynamic assessment tool through partnership with school districts and institutions currently offering Florida’s 24 state-approved EPI programs.  

Goal 4: Scale implementation and impact measurement to a national level through analysis of other state certification exams that can inform online learning tools for a range of certification pathways and programs designed to support out-of-field teachers (e.g. Teach for America). 

Findings from this research will contribute to two areas of mathematics education research – understanding and addressing the needs of out-of-field mathematics teachers (Hobbs & Törner, 2019; Ní Ríodáin et al., 2017) and teachers’ development of the specialized content knowledge that has been linked to classroom practice (Ball et al., 2008). It is also likely to have state and policy implications for teacher education. In particular, the research will contribute insight to an ongoing international debate about the amount and nature of the mathematics content that should be required for teacher preparation. 

An array of theoretical frameworks concerning the knowledge required for teaching mathematics have been developed by key researchers in the area (e.g. Ball et al., 2008; Davis & Renert, 2013; Rowland & Ruthven, 2011; Tatto et al., 2012). Such models provide guidance for designing experiences that target teacher knowledge development (Chapman, 2013), and particularly in this context, thinking about the development alternatively certified mathematics teachers. This project will incorporate and build on this work. The findings will also be valuable for mathematics teacher education in Florida as the state shifts to its new B.E.S.T. state standards in 2022.  

Research Dates

05/15/2020 to 05/15/2022


  • Darryl Chamberlain
    Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology
    Ph.D., Georgia State University
    B.S., University of Florida

Categories: Faculty-Staff