Elementary Teacher Preparation in
Mathematics: Minnesota

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

Analysis of Minnesota's policies

Minnesota relies on its standards for teacher preparation programs and the state's new certification test as the basis for articulating its requirements for the mathematics content knowledge of elementary teacher candidates.

The state does not specify any coursework requirements regarding mathematics content. However, Minnesota has articulated teaching standards that its approved teacher preparation programs must use to frame instruction in elementary mathematics content. The state's standards appropriately address content in mathematics foundations, but although they mention such areas as geometry, the standards lack the specificity needed to ensure that teacher preparation programs deliver this mathematics content of appropriate breadth and depth to elementary teacher candidates.

Minnesota's new certification test commendably includes a separate subtest in which mathematics accounts for 75 percent of the exam questions. Teacher candidates must pass each subtest to earn a passing score on the overall assessment.  The test's standards appropriately address content in mathematics foundations but are not specifically geared to meet the needs of elementary teachers.


Recommendations for Minnesota

Require teacher preparation programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers.
Although Minnesota requires some knowledge in key areas of mathematics, 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.

Ensure that the state's assessment of mathematics is rigorous and specifically focuses on the knowledge and skills that elementary teachers need.
Although Minnesota's new teacher licensure commendably requires the equivalent of a separate passing score for mathematics, the state should ensure that its mathematics assessment evaluates candidates' knowledge beyond an elementary school level, challenges their understanding of underlying concepts and requires candidates to apply knowledge in nonroutine, multistep procedures.  Teacher candidates who lack minimum mathematics knowledge should not be eligible for licensure.

State response to our analysis

Minnesota recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

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).