Elementary Teacher Preparation in
Mathematics: New Mexico

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: New Mexico results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/NM-Elementary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Mathematics-6

Analysis of New Mexico's policies

New Mexico relies on coursework requirements, its standards for teacher preparation programs and its subject-matter testing requirements as the basis for articulating its requirements for the mathematics content knowledge of elementary teacher candidates.

The state requires elementary teaching candidates to earn at least nine semester hours of credit in mathematics. However, New Mexico specifies neither the requisite content of these classes nor that they must meet the needs of elementary teachers.

New Mexico has also articulated teaching standards that its approved teacher preparation programs must use to frame instruction in elementary mathematics content. These standards outline key areas in mathematics, such as two- and three-dimensional geometry and "elements of algebra including elementary functions." However, these standards lack the specificity needed to ensure that teacher preparation programs deliver mathematics content of appropriate breadth and depth to elementary teacher candidates.

Finally, all new elementary teachers in New Mexico must pass a general subject-matter test, the state's own series of assessments (New Mexico Teacher Assessments or NMTA). This test's standards appropriately address content in mathematics foundations, but although they outline such areas as algebra, geometry and statistics, the standards are not specifically geared to meet the needs of elementary teachers. In addition, New Mexico 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 does not provide a specific mathematics passing score, so it may be possible to fail the mathematics portion and still pass the test.


Recommendations for New Mexico

Require teacher preparation programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers.
Although New Mexico requires knowledge in some 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. 

Require teacher candidates to pass a rigorous mathematics assessment.
New Mexico should assess mathematics content with a rigorous assessment tool, such as the test required in Massachusetts, that evaluates mathematics knowledge beyond an elementary school level and challenges candidates' understanding of underlying mathematics concepts. At a minimum, New Mexico should require a passing score specifically in math for its current content assessments. Teacher candidates who lack minimum mathematics knowledge should not be eligible for licensure.

State response to our analysis

New Mexico 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).