Elementary Teacher Preparation in
Mathematics: Michigan

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy


The state should ensure that new elementary teachers have sufficient knowledge of the mathematics content taught in elementary grades.

Meets a small part of goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Elementary Teacher Preparation in Mathematics: Michigan results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/MI-Elementary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Mathematics-6

Analysis of Michigan's policies

Michigan relies on both coursework and its subject-matter testing requirements as the basis for articulating its requirements for the mathematics content knowledge of elementary teacher candidates.

All teacher candidates in Michigan must complete an approved program of general or liberal education that includes mathematics. However, the state specifies neither the requisite content of these classes nor that they must meet the needs of elementary teachers.

Michigan requires that all new elementary teachers pass a general subject-matter test, the Michigan Test for Teacher Certification (MTTC). The test's standards appropriately address content in mathematics foundations, but although they outline areas such as algebra, geometry and data analysis, the standards are not specifically geared to meet the needs of elementary teachers. In addition, Michigan posts only a limited number of sample items, and a review of this material calls the rigor of its test into question; the test items representing elementary school content assess understanding at too superficial a level. Further, the state's test lacks a specific passing score for mathematics: It may be possible to fail the mathematics portion and still pass the test.


Recommendations for Michigan

Require teacher preparation programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers.
Although Michigan requires mathematics coursework, the state should require teacher preparation programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers. This includes specific coursework in foundations, algebra and geometry, with some statistics. 

Require teacher candidates to pass a rigorous mathematics assessment.
Michigan should require a passing score specifically in math for its content assessments to ensure that teacher candidates have adequate mathematics knowledge and understanding of underlying mathematics concepts. Such a score could be used to allow candidates to test out of coursework requirements. Teacher candidates who lack minimum mathematics knowledge should not be eligible for licensure.

State response to our analysis

Michigan asserted that its elementary standards for mathematics specify 10 elements that must be covered by teacher preparation programs. These elements are being incorporated into the mathematics portion of the new elementary assessment, which will become operational in October 2013. Further, the state added that a full-length MTTC practice test is now available for review. 

Last word

Michigan's response regarding the availability of a full-length practice test is appreciated. After careful review of the mathematics questions, NCTQ maintains the opinion expressed in this analysis. Michigan is urged to require a rigorous mathematics assessment to ensure that all elementary teacher candidates possess the appropriate knowledge of mathematics concepts.

Research rationale

For evidence that new teachers are not appropriately prepared to teach mathematics, see NCTQ, No Common Denominator: The Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Mathematics by America's Education Schools (2008) at:

For information on the mathematics content elementary teachers need to know, see National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, "Highly Qualified Teachers: A Position of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics," (July 2005). See also Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences, The Mathematical Education of Teachers, Issues in Mathematics, Vol. 11, (American Mathematical Society in cooperation with the Mathematical Association of America, 2001), p. 8.

For evidence on the benefits of math content knowledge on student achievement, see Kukla-Acevedo "Do Teacher Characteristics Matter? New Results on the Effects of Teacher Preparation on Student Achievement." Economics of Education Review, 28 (2009): 49-57; H. Hill, B. Rowan and D. Ball "Effects of Teachers' Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching on Student Achievement," American Educational Research Journal (2005).

For information on where states set passing scores on elementary level content tests for teacher licensing across the U.S., see chart on p. 13 of NCTQ's "Recommendations for the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Removing the Roadblocks: How Federal Policy Can Cultivate Effective Teachers?" (2011).