Teaching Mathematics: Ohio

2017 General Teacher Prep Programs Policy


The state should ensure that new elementary teachers have sufficient knowledge of the mathematics content taught in elementary grades. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.

Does not meet

Analysis of Ohio's policies

Mathematics Content Test Requirements: In Ohio, candidates teaching grades PreK through 3 must only pass the Ohio Assessments for Educators (OAE) Early Childhood Education test, which is not a content test. 

Teachers opting to expand their teaching levels to include grades 4 and 5 by adding the early childhood generalist endorsement will be required to pass the Elementary Education content exam, which consists of two separately scored subtests. Mathematics counts for 50 percent of subtest two and is combined with other subject areas, e.g., science and the arts, health and fitness. Because the test does not report a specific math score, a teacher candidate could answer many math questions incorrectly and still pass the test.

The framework for the Elementary Education test covers numbers and operations, data analysis, and basic concepts of geometry and algebra. However, the test standards are not specifically geared to meet the needs of elementary teachers, and not all teacher candidates teaching the elementary grades must pass this test.


Recommendations for Ohio

Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous mathematics assessment.
Ohio should assess mathematics content with a rigorous assessment tool, such as the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) mathematics test, which evaluates mathematics knowledge beyond an elementary school level and challenges candidates' understanding of underlying mathematics concepts. Such a test could also be used to allow candidates to test out of coursework requirements. To help ensure that all students are taught by a teacher who has demonstrated adequate mathematics content knowledge, teacher candidates who lack this knowledge should not be eligible for licensure.

Require teacher preparation programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers.
Ohio must ensure that new teachers are prepared to teach the mathematics content required by college- and career-readiness standards. Although Ohio requires some coursework in 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 coursework. To help ensure that all students are taught by a teacher with adequate mathematics content knowledge, teacher candidates who lack this knowledge should not be eligible for licensure.

State response to our analysis

Ohio recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

How we graded

2B: Teaching Elementary Mathematics

  • Content Knowledge: The state should require:
    • All elementary teacher candidates to pass a rigorous elementary math content exam in order to attain licensure.
    • Teacher preparation programs to deliver elementary math content coursework of the appropriate breadth and depth to all elementary teacher candidates. This coursework should build a strong conceptual foundation in elementary math topics and should align with recommendations of professional associations such as the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Content Knowledge
The entire goal score may be earned based on the following:

  • Full Credit: The state will earn full credit if it requires new elementary teachers to pass a math content test or separately scored math subtest prior to obtaining licensure. 
  • One-quarter credit: If the state does not require a math content test, but adequate math teacher preparation standards exist, it is eligible for one-quarter of a point. 

Research rationale

Required math coursework should be tailored in both design and delivery to the unique needs of the elementary teacher. Aspiring elementary teachers must acquire a deep conceptual knowledge of the mathematics that they will teach, moving well beyond mere procedural understanding.[1] Their training should focus on the critical areas of numbers and operations; algebra; geometry; and, to a lesser degree, data analysis and probability.

To ensure that elementary teachers are well trained to teach the essential subject of mathematics, states must require teacher preparation programs to cover these four areas in coursework that is specially designed for prospective elementary teachers.[2] Leading mathematicians and math educators have found that elementary teachers are not well served by courses designed for a general audience and that methods courses also do not provide sufficient preparation.[3] According to Dr. Roger Howe, a mathematician at Yale University: "Future teachers do not need so much to learn more mathematics, as to reshape what they already know."

States' policies should require preparation in mathematics of appropriate breadth and depth and specific to the needs of the elementary teacher. Reports by NCTQ on teacher preparation, beginning with No Common Denominator: The Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Mathematics by America's Education Schools (2008) and continuing through the Teacher Prep Review, have consistently found few elementary teacher preparation programs across the country providing high-quality preparation in mathematics.[4] Whether through standards or coursework requirements, states must ensure that their preparation programs graduate only teacher candidates who are well prepared to teach mathematics.

Many state tests offer no assurance that teachers are prepared to teach mathematics. An increasing number of states require passage of a mathematics subtest as a condition of licensure, but many states still rely on subject-matter tests that include some items (or even a whole section) on mathematics instruction. However, since subject-specific passing scores are not required, one need not know much mathematics in order to pass. In fact, in some cases one could answer every mathematics question incorrectly and still pass.[5] States need to ensure that it is not possible to pass a licensure test that purportedly covers mathematics without knowing the critical material.

The content of these tests poses another issue: these tests should properly test elementary content but not at an elementary level. Instead, problems should challenge the teacher candidate's understanding of underlying concepts and apply knowledge in nonroutine, multistep procedures.[6] The MTEL test required by both Massachusetts and North Carolina remains the standard bearer for a high quality, rigorous assessment for elementary teachers entirely and solely focused on mathematics.

[1] For evidence on the benefits of math content knowledge on student achievement, see: Kukla-Acevedo, S. (2009). Do teacher characteristics matter? New results on the effects of teacher preparation on student achievement. Economics of Education Review, 28(1), 49-57.; Hill, H. C., Rowan, B., & Ball, D. L. (2005). Effects of teachers' mathematical knowledge for teaching on student achievement. American educational research journal, 42(2), 371-406.
[2] For information on the mathematics content elementary teachers need to know, see: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (2005, July). Highly qualified teachers: A position of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.; See also: Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences. (2001). The mathematical education of teachers (Vol. 11). American Mathematical Society.
[3] For evidence that new teachers are not appropriately prepared to teach mathematics, see: Greenberg, J., & Walsh, K. (2008, June). No common denominator: The preparation of elementary teachers in mathematics by America's education schools. National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/No_Common_Denominator_NCTQ_Report
[4]  National Council on Teacher Quality. (2016, December). Landscapes in teacher prep: Undergraduate elementary. National Council on Teacher Quality's Teacher Prep Review. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/UE_2016_Landscape_653385_656245
[5] 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: National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Recommendations for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/nctq_eseaReauthorization.pdf
[6] National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2005, July). Highly qualified teachers: A position of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.