Preparing Mathematics Teachers

**T**he preparation of mathematics teachers in the United States has been a topic of increasingly impassioned discussion in the last 20 years. There is deep concern about the numeracy of the nation’s high school graduates, as well as concern about perceived shortages of highly qualified mathematics teachers. The organization of U.S. schooling as three stages—elementary (kindergarten through grade 4 or 5), middle (grade 5 or 6 through 8), and secondary or high (grades 9 through 12)—presents particular challenges for mathematics education. Mathematics learning at each of these levels has a distinct character, reflecting the developmental and educational needs of different age groups. For teachers, this structure has meant that different sorts of preparation are required to teach each level. Most elementary teachers are prepared to teach all subjects, while teachers at the secondary level are prepared as specialists in a particular content area. Preparation for middle grades mathematics teachers varies from place to place, and certification requirements reflect the ambiguous status of middle school. For example, many states offer grade K-8 certification to teachers prepared as generalists, as well as grade 7-12 certification to those specifically prepared to teach mathematics.

Though the preparation of elementary, middle, and secondary level teachers may differ, expectations for all mathematics teachers have increased steadily and dramatically over the last few decades. In particular, schools now try to teach more mathematics earlier than was the case even a decade ago. The most visible evidence of this change has been the push to encourage all high school students to take both 2 years of algebra and

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6
Preparing Mathematics Teachers
T
he preparation of mathematics teachers in the United States has
been a topic of increasingly impassioned discussion in the last 20
years. There is deep concern about the numeracy of the nation’s high
school graduates, as well as concern about perceived shortages of highly
qualified mathematics teachers. The organization of U.S. schooling as three
stages—elementary (kindergarten through grade 4 or 5), middle (grade 5
or 6 through 8), and secondary or high (grades 9 through 12)—presents
particular challenges for mathematics education. Mathematics learning at
each of these levels has a distinct character, reflecting the developmental and
educational needs of different age groups. For teachers, this structure has
meant that different sorts of preparation are required to teach each level.
Most elementary teachers are prepared to teach all subjects, while teachers
at the secondary level are prepared as specialists in a particular content
area. Preparation for middle grades mathematics teachers varies from place
to place, and certification requirements reflect the ambiguous status of
middle school. For example, many states offer grade K-8 certification to
teachers prepared as generalists, as well as grade 7-12 certification to those
specifically prepared to teach mathematics.
Though the preparation of elementary, middle, and secondary level
teachers may differ, expectations for all mathematics teachers have in-
creased steadily and dramatically over the last few decades. In particular,
schools now try to teach more mathematics earlier than was the case even
a decade ago. The most visible evidence of this change has been the push
to encourage all high school students to take both 2 years of algebra and
0

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0 PREPARING TEACHERS
1 year of geometry. Many districts and even some states have made it a goal
that all students take algebra I by the 8th grade.
U.S. students are not yet, as a group, meeting the higher expectations of
recent years. Trends in student achievement in mathematics, as measured by
the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), have shown con-
siderable improvement since 1990, but the 2009 results showed that just 39
percent of 4th graders and 34 percent of 8th graders are performing at or
above the proficient level (National Center for Education Statistics, 2009).
In the mathematics portion of the Third International Mathematics and
Science Study (TIMSS), U.S. 4th and 8th graders scored above the median,
but the nation was not among the top-performing nations (Gonzales et al.,
2008). A 1998 comparison of the performance of older students showed
that U.S. students were among the lowest performing group of the 21 na-
tions in the study (National Center for Education Statistics, 1998).
At the same time, considerable evidence indicates that many teachers,
especially in grades K-8, are not well prepared to teach challenging math-
ematics. The time allotted for mathematics content in the preparation of
many elementary and middle school teachers is unlikely to be adequate,
and many secondary school mathematics teachers (including those in the
middle grades who are prepared as specialists) may also be receiving train-
ing that does not prepare them to teach advanced-level mathematics (e.g.,
algebra, geometry, and trigonometry). Mathematics teachers may also need
specific preparation for the challenge of teaching mathematics in ways that
engage all students and gives them a chance to succeed. Moreover, many of
those who teach mathematics in U.S. secondary schools, especially in poor
and underserved communities, lack appropriate certification and adequate
content preparation. These concerns have been evident for a long time, and
their persistence underscores the importance of assessing the status of the
preparation of mathematics teachers.1
This chapter is organized as was the preceding one, beginning with
a brief overview of the research base and then turning to our four key
questions:
1. What do successful students know about mathematics?
2. What instructional opportunities are necessary to support success-
ful students?
3. What do successful teachers know about mathematics and how to
teach it?
1 When possible, we have addressed the differing needs of K-8 teachers of mathematics and
secondary mathematics teachers, but we note that much of the literature focuses on the teach-
ers of younger students.

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PREPARING MATHEMATICS TEACHERS
4. What instructional opportunities are necessary to prepare success-
ful teachers?
We continue with what is known about how mathematics teachers are
currently prepared, and we end the chapter with our conclusions.
THE RESEARCH BASE
The literature on which we could rely for this chapter was an amal-
gam of empirical research and other kinds of work. The community of
mathematics educators and mathematicians has synthesized the intellectual
principles of mathematics with insights from other fields (e.g., cognitive
and developmental psychology), the practice-based wisdom of classroom
teachers, and the available empirical research to develop guidelines for
mathematics teaching and learning. The National Council of Teachers of
Mathematics (NCTM), the National Research Council (NRC), the Confer-
ence Board of the Mathematical Sciences, and, most recently, the National
Mathematics Advisory Panel have published some of the most widely
known documents. Each of those documents is the product of extensive
efforts to collaborate, develop consensus, and distill practical guidance
from theoretical models as well as research, and we have relied heavily on
them. The influence of the research in learning and cognition that we dis-
cuss in Chapter 4 is evident in the reports of those groups and the field of
mathematics education generally. State standards and curricula have also
provided outlines of the content and skills students are expected to master.
Thus, we had an array of resources on which to draw, although the empiri-
cal base is less direct than that for reading. We have attempted to describe
the research base on which the points we highlight rests.
QuESTION 1: WHAT DO SuCCESSFuL STuDENTS
KNOW ABOuT MATHEMATICS?
Looking first at what students ought to learn, we found numerous
sources. As part of the standards movement that began in the 1980s, states
developed mathematics standards, and, along with professional societies
and other interest groups, have used a variety of approaches to arrive at
descriptions of the fundamental mathematical skills and knowledge that
the states believe students should be taught. Although these descriptions
might seem similar to most people, they reflect important differences among
mathematics educators, differences that have at times been contentious.
Indeed, the phrase “math wars” has been used to describe the debate over
what mathematics should be taught to K-12 students and how it should
be taught. In particular, much debate has centered on the relative emphasis

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06 PREPARING TEACHERS
that should be given to the mastery of basic skills and the development of
conceptual understanding, though most state and other standards docu-
ments now acknowledge the importance of both.
In 1989, the NCTM became the first professional society to respond
to the call for subject-matter standards when they released Curriculum and
Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics. These standards were devel-
oped through a multiyear consensus process led by committees of NCTM
members. This document was followed by companion documents on teach-
ing and assessment in mathematics, and the NCTM standards had a strong
influence on the standards adopted by many states. A series of more recent
publications have also been important.
Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (National Council of
Teachers of Mathematics, 2000), which offered an update of the group’s
earlier documents and was based on a more detailed review of the theory,
research, and practice literature, has been particularly influential (also
see Kilpatrick, Martin, and Schifter, 2003). Principles offers five content
standards (number and operations, algebra, geometry, measurement, and
data analysis and probability) and five process standards (problem solving,
reasoning and proof, communication, connections, and representation). In
this volume, the NCTM discusses its vision for achieving the 10 standards
in four grade bands (pre-K through grade 2, grades 3-5, grades 6-8, and
grades 9-12) and identifies six principles for school mathematics (equity,
curriculum, teaching, learning, assessment, and technology). The high vis-
ibility of the NCTM standards is evident in the fact that nearly 85 percent
of U.S. teachers surveyed as part of the Third International Mathematics
and Science Study reported that they were familiar with them (though there
is no hard evidence about whether the standards have changed teachers’
practice or even whether teachers have read them) (National Center for
Education Statistics, 2003b).
In 2006, the NCTM released Curriculum Focal Points for Pre-
Kindergarten Through Grade 8 Mathematics: A Quest for Coherence. This
document provides explicit guidance as to the most important mathemat-
ics topics that should be taught at each grade level, identifying the “ideas,
concepts, skills, and procedures that form the foundation for understand-
ing and using mathematics” (see http://www.nctm.org/standards/content.
aspx?id=270 [November 2009]). The document is designed to guide states
and school districts as they revise their standards, curricula, and assess-
ment programs. As this report is being prepared, the NCTM has another
task force at work on a companion document addressing high school
mathematics. The NCTM documents stress that their standards are for
all students, regardless of their interests or career aspirations. In general,
the NCTM documents reflect an effort to achieve consensus among math-

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ematics teachers, mathematics educators, mathematicians, and education
researchers, and they drew on the available research.
Another report, Adding it Up (National Research Council, 2001a),
has also synthesized the available literature on mathematics learning. It
used the topic of number as taught in grades pre-K through 8 as a focus in
addressing the question of what constitutes mathematical proficiency. The
report was based on a review of empirical research that met the committee’s
standards for relevance, soundness, and generalizability, as well as other
literature. The report notes that choices about the mathematics children
should be taught are both reflections of “what society wants educated
adults to know” and “value judgments based on previous experience and
convictions [which] fall outside the domain of research” (p. 21). The report
describes mathematical proficiency as having five intertwined strands: con-
ceptual understanding, procedural fluency, strategic competence, adaptive
reasoning, and productive disposition.
Efforts to address high school preparation include the American
Diploma Project sponsored by Achieve, Inc., which produced benchmarks
for college readiness (see http://www.achieve.org/ [February 2010]), the
College Board Standards for Success, and the Common Core Project spon-
sored by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State
School Officers, now under way.
In Foundations for Success, the National Mathematics Advisory Panel
(2008) synthesized empirical research related to students’ readiness to suc-
ceed in algebra. The panel focused on studies that used a randomized control
design or statistical procedures to compensate for deviations from that model.
However, because there were not enough studies of that type to address all
of the panel’s questions, other research was considered as well. We note that
this was a different criterion than was used by the developers of the NCTM
standards or the National Research Council panel, and these differences have
contributed to differences among the various reports. Some have criticized
Foundations for Success for relying on a base that was excessively thin (ex-
cluding descriptive studies, for example) and thus excluding valuable find-
ings. Others have supported the panel’s strict definition of research utility.2
The panel addressed many aspects of mathematics education, and among its
findings and recommendations are several regarding what students should
learn. The panel focused on what was needed for students to be successful in
learning algebra (National Mathematics Advisory Panel, 2008, p. xix):
To prepare students for Algebra, the curriculum must simultaneously
develop conceptual understanding, computational fluency, and problem-
2 For a discussion of this controversy, see the December 2008 issue of Educational Researcher,
which was a special issue devoted to the report of the National Mathematics Advisory
Panel.

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08 PREPARING TEACHERS
solving skills. Debates regarding the relative importance of these aspects
of mathematical knowledge are misguided. These capabilities are mutually
supportive, each facilitating learning of the other.
To identify the essential concepts and skills that prepare students for
algebra coursework, the panel drew on a range of sources, including: the
curricula for grades 1 through 8 from the countries that performed best
on TIMSS, Focal Points (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics,
2000), the six highest-rated state curriculum frameworks in mathematics,
a 2007 survey of ACT, Inc., and a survey of algebra I teachers. The panel
also reviewed state standards for algebra I and II, current school algebra
and integrated mathematics textbooks, the algebra objectives in the 2005
grade 12 assessment of the NAEP, the American Diploma Project stan-
dards from Achieve, Inc., and Singapore’s algebra standards. Based on all
the information gathered and professional judgment, the panel identified
what they called the critical foundation of algebra and the major topics
of school algebra. The panel also stressed the importance of coherence
across the curriculum and the establishment of logical priorities for each
year of study.
All of these documents—Principles and Standards for School Math-
ematics, Curriculum Focal Points, Adding It Up, and Foundations for
Success—attempt to answer questions about what successful mathematics
students know. But none of the documents could rely on empirical re-
search that demonstrates that students who have mastered these domains
of mathematical knowledge and skill are more productive or successful at
their schoolwork or in life. As in any subject, standards for mathematics
are collective decisions about which learning goals should take priority
over others, not conclusions based on empirical evidence (though evidence
of various sorts may influence the standards). Thus, the various descrip-
tions of the mathematics that should be taught in K-12 differ in both their
perspective and the degree of detail they provide.
More important, the documents reflect important shifts in the think-
ing of mathematics education leaders about what students need to learn.
Most notably, they show an increasing tendency to provide guidance that
is both focused and concrete. They also reflect a growing consensus about
the most important aspects of student learning in mathematics, which is
based in part on the research on learning and thinking (see Chapter 4).
For example, they reflect research that has identified the importance of
learning with understanding, as opposed to memorizing isolated facts, and
the importance of opportunities to engage in mathematical reasoning and
problem solving. Both ideas have important implications for mathematics
education, which we discuss below.
Every state has its own standards for mathematics, and there are sig-

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nificant differences among them (Raimi and Braden, 1998; Klein, 2005;
National Research Council, 2008).3 Although a detailed content analysis
of the similarities and differences among these standards was beyond the
scope of this committee’s work, it is clear from our review that a number
of important themes are consistently identified as important. Although
these themes are not exclusively based on empirical research, and they have
evolved through a certain amount of struggle and disagreement, a reason-
able consensus has been achieved on the question of what mathematics
students should be taught in grades K-8.
Unfortunately, the picture is much less clear for grades 9 through 12
because the base of research on student learning related to secondary school
mathematics topics and courses is relatively thin. Thus, the field tends to
rely more heavily on professional judgment when deciding on curriculum
for high school students. For example, views differ about the place of cal-
culus and statistics. Yet there is consensus that for students to be successful
in high school mathematics courses, they need preparation in the basic
topic areas—including number, operations, and fractions—and there is little
disagreement that students also need to develop conceptual understanding,
procedural fluency, and confidence in their capacity to learn mathematics.
In general, successful mathematics learning entails the cumulative de-
velopment of increasingly sophisticated conceptual understanding, proce-
dural fluency, and capacity for reasoning and problem solving.4 Moreover,
there is broad general agreement about the topics to be included in the
curriculum for grades K-8, though the relative emphasis they should receive
and their exact placement by grade is not settled.
QuESTION 2: WHAT INSTRuCTIONAL
OPPORTuNITIES ARE NECESSARy TO SuPPORT
SuCCESSFuL MATHEMATICS STuDENTS?
Turning to the question of what sorts of instructional opportunities
enable students to learn mathematics effectively, we found that useful guid-
ance comes from the research on how students learn. How Students Learn:
History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom (National Research
Council, 2005) summarizes the major findings from research on learning
and cognition as they pertain to K-12 teaching and learning. This report
builds on previous NRC syntheses of research on learning, particularly
3 As this report is being written, an effort to engage states in a collaboration to develop com-
mon standards in key academic subjects, sponsored by the National Governors Association
and the Council for Chief State School Officers, is in its beginning stages.
4 Progress in mathematics, as in any subject, is likely to depend in part on students’ motiva-
tion but this issue has not been a central theme in research related to teacher preparation.

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How People Learn (National Research Council, 2000a) (discussed in Chap-
ter 4), and both have been influential in mathematics education.
How Students Learn begins by applying three broad principles about
learning to the teaching of mathematics: that engaging students’ prior con-
ceptions is critical to successful learning, that learning with understanding
entails an integration of factual knowledge and conceptual frameworks,
and that students need to learn how to monitor their learning. Thus, the
authors assert that mathematics instruction should
• uild on and refine the mathematical understandings, intuitions,
b
and resourcefulness that students bring to the classroom;
• rganize the skills and competencies required to do mathematics
o
fluently around a set of core mathematical concepts; and
• elp students use metacognitive strategies when solving mathemat-
h
ics problems.
Addressing students’ existing ideas is important for two reasons. First,
lingering misconceptions about mathematical concepts may interfere with
learning. Second, students who believe, for example, that some people have
the ability to “do math” and some do not, that mathematics is exclusively a
matter of learning and following rules in order to obtain a correct answer,
or that mathematics is exclusively a matter of reasoning (and does not also
require considerable mastery of factual knowledge) are much more likely to
struggle with mathematics, and perhaps give up on it. Thus, it is important
that all students participate in activities that make their informal or naïve
mathematical ideas and reasoning explicit so that they might examine—
along with their teachers—which aspects of their thinking are valid and
which are not. More generally, instruction designed to help students bridge
gaps between naïve conceptions and the mathematical understanding they
need to develop is important.
With regard to organizing skills around mathematical concepts, How
Students Learn stresses that, in order to succeed as mathematics becomes
more complex through the school years, students develop “learning paths
from more informal concrete methods to abbreviated, more general, and
more abstract methods” (National Research Council, 2005, p. 232). Though
mastering mathematical procedures is very important, instruction that em-
phasizes them at the expense of developing conceptual frameworks leaves
students ill equipped for algebra and higher-level mathematics. Likewise, in-
struction that emphasizes conceptual understanding without corresponding
attention to the development of skills may leave students unprepared for the
skill-oriented aspects of higher-level mathematics. The report makes clear
that there is no need to choose between the two: mathematical proficiency
requires both, as well as attention to reasoning and problem solving. In

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addition, instruction should help students develop the metacognitive skills
and confidence to monitor and regulate their own mathematical thinking.
For example, instruction that helps students use common errors as a tool
for identifying misconceptions may support students’ development of prob-
lem-solving skills.
Adding It Up (National Research Council, 2001a) also addresses in-
struction, noting that debates about alternative approaches to teaching, such
as traditional versus reform, or direct instruction versus inquiry, obscure the
broader point that effective instruction is a successful interaction among three
elements: teachers’ knowledge and use of mathematical content, teachers’
attention to and handling of the students, and students’ engagement in and
use of mathematical tasks. Thus, while the instructional choices teachers
make are important, the way they are carried out is equally so.
For example, Adding It Up cites research (e.g., Stein, Grover, and
Henningsen, 1996; Henningsen and Stein, 1997) that a cognitively demand-
ing task may become routine if the teacher specifies explicit procedures
for completing it or takes over the demanding aspects as soon as students
appear to struggle. The TIMSS 1999 video study identified the ability to
maintain the high-level demands of cognitively challenging tasks during
instruction as the central feature that distinguished classroom teaching in
countries with high-performing students from teaching in countries with
lower performing students (including the United States) (National Center
for Education Statistics, 2003c; Stigler and Hiebert, 2004). This research
suggests that student engagement is fostered when teachers choose tasks
that build on the students’ prior knowledge and guide them to the next
level, rather than demonstrating exactly how to proceed, and that it is
essential that students think through concepts for themselves. Other fac-
tors identified as effective include thoughtful lesson planning that tracks
students’ developing understanding and allocation of sufficient time for
students to achieve lesson goals.
The National Mathematics Advisory Panel made similar points, and it
found no rigorous research to support claims that instruction that is either
exclusively “teacher-centered” or exclusively “student-centered” is better.
The panel did, however, find some evidence to support the effectiveness of
cooperative learning practices and the regular use of formative assessment
in elementary mathematics instruction as a tool for tailoring instruction to
students’ needs. The panel called attention to the limited amount of rigor-
ous empirical research available to answer questions about mathematics
teaching and learning, and it recommended a variety of research to test
hypotheses about the most effective approaches.
In sum, there is growing agreement on the specifics of what students
should be taught, but there are fewer specific answers as to the best ways
to teach that material. Mathematics educators have established a clear

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2 PREPARING TEACHERS
consensus, based on research evidence, that the development of mathemati-
cal proficiency requires continual instructional opportunities for students
to build their understanding of core mathematical concepts, fluency with
mathematics procedures, and metacognitive strategies to guide their own
mathematical learning. However, there is little empirical evidence to sup-
port detailed conclusions about precisely how this is best accomplished.
QuESTION 3: WHAT DO SuCCESSFuL TEACHERS KNOW
ABOuT MATHEMATICS AND HOW TO TEACH IT?
There is strong reason to believe that teachers’ knowledge and skills
make a difference in their practice (Wenglinsky, 2002; Rockoff, 2004;
Rivkin, Hanushek, and Kain, 2005; Clotfelter, Ladd, and Vigdor, 2007).
Researchers have tried to disentangle the different kinds of knowledge
about mathematics, about students, and about the learning process that
teachers use (Ball, Lubienski, and Mewborn, 2001). Research that has
searched for connections between straightforward—yet crude—measures of
teacher knowledge (such as number of courses taken or degrees earned) and
student learning has provided relatively little insight into questions about
what skills and knowledge are most valuable for teachers (see Chapter 3).
For example, research shows that high school students taught by mathe-
matics majors outperform students taught by teachers who majored in some
other field, but that research does not illuminate what it is that the teachers
who majored in mathematics do in the classroom (Monk and King, 1994;
Goldhaber and Brewer, 1997; Rowan, Chiang, and Miller, 1997; Wilson,
Floden, and Ferrini-Mundy, 2001; Floden and Maniketti, 2005).
Beginning in the 1980s, a growing number of scholars looked to
more qualitative research—largely based on interviews and classroom
observations—to provide richer pictures of the mathematical thinking teach-
ers do when teaching. These studies supported the development of more
nuanced descriptions of teachers’ knowledge and skills by illuminating the
ways that the mathematical knowledge needed for teaching differs from
the mathematical knowledge needed to succeed in advanced courses. The
concept of pedagogical content knowledge gave a name to the knowledge
of content as it applies to and can be used in teaching (see, e.g., Shulman,
1986; Ball, Lubienski, and Mewborn, 2001).
Mathematicians have always played a critical role in defining the kinds
of knowledge and skills that are most useful to mathematics teachers. Sev-
eral recent publications, including textbooks for aspiring elementary math-
ematics teachers, studies, and analytic essays, have laid out current thinking
(e.g., Parker and Baldridge, 2003; Beckmann, 2004; Milgram, 2005; Wu,
2007). For example, Wu (2007) argued that, at a minimum, teachers of
grades 5-12 must be knowledgeable about the importance of definitions, the

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ubiquity of reasoning, the precision and coherence of the discipline, and the
fact that the concepts and skills in the curriculum are there for a purpose
(how to solve problems). Ideally, he argues, teachers in the primary grades
should know all these things, too, but pedagogical knowledge carries more
weight for teachers of younger students. An additional obvious difference
between the requirements for elementary teachers and high school teachers
is that teaching older students carries a greater demand for both technical
skills and abstract reasoning.
These developments in the understanding of mathematics teaching
provide a critical framework for teacher education, although they do not
provide empirical support for a concrete description of precisely how to
teach mathematics (Ball, Lubienski, and Mewborn, 2001). However, the
sophistication of this sort of analysis of classroom teaching provides a way
to understand an exceptionally complex process. The combination of this
descriptive work and analyses by mathematicians provides an invaluable
component of the research base.
Many of the same sources that have offered visions of what students
need to learn have also made recommendations as to what mathematics
teachers need to know. These summary documents draw on the range of
quantitative and qualitative research available, as well as on the profes-
sional judgment of scholars and practitioners.
The NCTM has developed professional standards for mathematics
teachers to accompany their content standards (National Council of Teach-
ers of Mathematics, 1991). Similarly, states have developed standards for
mathematics teachers, drawing on such resources as the standards from
NCTM and the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consor-
tium (INTASC). The focus of these resources, however, is on ensuring that
teachers have studied the material covered in the standards and curricula
for students. They do not, for the most part, address others kinds of knowl-
edge and skills that might be important for teachers.
Adding It Up (National Research Council, 2001a) also describes the
knowledge of mathematics, students, and instructional practices that are
important for teachers. The report stresses that, to be effective, teachers
not only need to understand mathematical concepts and know how to
perform mathematical procedures, but also to understand the conceptual
foundations of that knowledge; it is also important that they have strong
confidence in their own mathematical competence. The report notes that
a substantial body of work has documented the deficiencies in U.S. math-
ematics teachers’ base of knowledge—and that even when teachers under-
stand the mathematics content they are responsible for teaching, they often
lack deeper understanding of the way mathematical knowledge is generated
and established.
The Mathematical Education of Teachers, a report prepared by the

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Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences and published by Ameri-
can Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America
(2001), offers guidelines for the preparation of mathematics teachers and
is arguably the primary document that guides departments of mathemat-
ics regarding the teaching of mathematics to future teachers. The report’s
recommendations are grounded in the conviction that a central goal of
preservice mathematics education is to develop teachers who have excel-
lent problem-solving and mathematical-reasoning skills themselves, and
the report describes specific kinds of knowledge teachers at different grade
levels need related to the topics they will teach their students. The report
emphasizes how important it is that teachers understand links between the
material taught in the early grades and more sophisticated concepts that
will build on the earlier learning: it is not sufficient for teachers to master
only the level of mathematics they will be teaching.
Moreover, the report observes that the challenges of teaching each level
are distinct and require different preparation, as current certification require-
ments reflect. It notes in particular that teachers of middle grades mathe-
matics often “have been prepared to teach elementary school mathematics
and lack the broader background needed to teach the more advanced math-
ematics of the middle grades” (Conference Board of the Mathematical Sci-
ences, 2001, see http://www.cbmsweb.org/MET_Document/chapter_4.htm
[November 2009]).
The National Mathematics Advisory Panel also searched for evidence
about the connections between teachers’ knowledge and instructional prac-
tice and student outcomes, and for evidence that particular instructional
practices are effective. Citing evidence that variation in teacher quality
may account for 12 to 14 percent of the variance in elementary students’
mathematics learning, the panel examined evidence of teachers’ knowledge
that can be gleaned from certification, courses completed, and assessment
results. Noting that these are imprecise measures, the panel nevertheless
seconds the recommendation in Adding It Up, asserting that “teachers must
know in detail the mathematical content they are responsible for teaching
and its connections to other important mathematics” (National Mathemat-
ics Advisory Panel, 2008, p. xxi).
Thus, despite the lack of substantial and consistent empirical evidence,
there is a growing consensus about the kinds of mathematical knowledge
effective teachers have. Current research and professional consensus cor-
respond in suggesting that all mathematics teachers, even elementary teach-
ers, rely on a combination of mathematics knowledge and pedagogical
knowledge:
• athematical knowledge for teaching, that is, knowledge not just
m
of the content they are responsible for teaching, but also of the

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broader mathematical context for that knowledge and the connec-
tions between the material they teach and other important math-
ematics content;
• nderstanding of the way mathematics learning develops and of the
u
variation in cognitive approaches to mathematical thinking; and
• ommand of an array of instructional strategies designed to de-
c
velop students’ mathematical learning that are grounded in both
practice and research.
QuESTION 4: WHAT INSTRuCTIONAL
OPPORTuNITIES ARE NECESSARy TO PREPARE
SuCCESSFuL MATHEMATICS TEACHERS?
How might teachers best acquire the knowledge and skills they need?
The work of Deborah Ball (1990, 1991, 1993) on the knowledge of elemen-
tary school teachers, as well as Liping Ma’s (1999) influential comparison
of Chinese and American teachers, which built on Ball’s work, have sparked
a renewal of interest among mathematicians and mathematics teacher edu-
cators in the preparation of mathematics teachers. Other resources include
guidelines for preparation programs, as well as research regarding elements
of preparation that can be linked to positive outcomes for students. Nev-
ertheless, there is relatively little empirical evidence to support guidelines
for teacher preparation.
The report prepared by the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sci-
ences (2001) offers guidelines for teachers’ mathematics preparation.5 The
board’s guidance is based on available scholarship on mathematics educa-
tion and the judgment of professional mathematicians. The board’s report
offered three specific recommendations:
1. Prospective elementary grade teachers should be required to take at
least 9 semester-hours on fundamental ideas of elementary school
mathematics.
2. Prospective middle grades teachers of mathematics should be re-
quired to take at least 21 semester-hours of mathematics, [includ-
ing] at least 12 semester-hours on fundamental ideas of school
mathematics appropriate for middle grades teachers.
5 The National Council on Teacher Quality (Greenberg and Walsh, 2008) also developed
recommendations to guide programs, which address the content knowledge teachers should
acquire, the need for higher admissions standards, the need for an assessment suitable for
establishing that graduating teachers have mastered the requisite knowledge, the importance
of linkage between content and methods courses as well as fieldwork, and the qualifications of
mathematics teacher educators. The guidelines are based primarily on studies of course syllabi
used in preparation programs.

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6 PREPARING TEACHERS
3. Prospective high school teachers of mathematics should be re-
quired to complete the equivalent of an undergraduate major in
mathematics, [including] a 6-hour capstone course connecting their
college mathematics courses with high school mathematics.
David Monk (1994) also examined the effects of course taking on
teacher effectiveness, using data from the Longitudinal Survey of American
Youth. He found that students whose teachers had taken more mathemat-
ics courses performed better on achievement tests than their peers whose
teachers had taken fewer such courses. He also found that courses that
addressed teaching methods showed an even stronger benefit. Floden and
Meniketti (2005) summarized the findings of this and other research on
the effects of undergraduate coursework on teachers’ knowledge. They
identified studies that examined correlations between coursework and
teacher performance and correlations between coursework and student
achievement and those that examined the content knowledge of prospec-
tive teachers and studies that examined what teachers learn from par-
ticular courses. Many studies focused on mathematics, and they provided
support for the claim that studying college-level mathematics has benefits
for prospective secondary level teachers. However, the research provides
little clear guidance as to what the content of the coursework should be
and even less guidance about content preparation for teachers of lower
grades. Floden and Meniketti also note that currently available measures
of teacher knowledge and of student outcomes are imprecise tools for
assessing the impact of teacher education (see also Wilson, Floden, and
Ferrini-Mundy, 2001).
Ball, Hill, and Bass (2005) conducted an analysis of the role of math-
ematical knowledge and skills in elementary teaching in order to develop
a “practice-based portrait of . . . mathematical knowledge for teaching”
(p. 17). They then developed measures of this knowledge to use in link-
ing it to student achievement. The researchers argue that teachers need to
have “a specialized fluency with mathematical language, with what counts
as a mathematical explanation, and with how to use symbols with care”
(p. 21). They found that teachers need not only to be able do the math-
ematics they are teaching, but to “think from the learner’s perspective and
to consider what it takes to understand a mathematical idea for someone
seeing it for the first time” (p. 21) (see also Hill, Rowan, and Ball, 2005).
Through a longitudinal study of schools engaged in reform efforts, Ball and
her colleagues were able to link 1st- and 3rd-grade teachers’ responses to
the measure of professional knowledge with their students’ scores on the
TerraNova assessment (Ball, Lubienski, and Mewborn, 2001). The results
showed a significant relationship between students’ gains and their teachers’
degree of professional knowledge.

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PREPARING MATHEMATICS TEACHERS
This body of work clearly supports the intuitive belief that content
knowledge is important. The research on student learning described above
also supports the proposition that prospective mathematics teachers should
study mathematics learning and teaching methods.6
Finally, a study of the preparation of middle school mathematics teach-
ers in six nations (Schmidt et al., 2007) follows up on findings from the
1987 TIMSS study. That study had shown that, in general, middle school
students in the United States were not exposed to mathematics curricula
that were as focused, coherent, and rigorous as those in countries (includ-
ing Korea and Taiwan) whose students scored higher on TIMSS. Schmidt
and his colleagues examined teacher preparation in those countries and
found that training in the high-performing countries includes extensive
educational opportunities in mathematics and in the practical aspects of
teaching students in the middle grades.
The relevant body of work on what instructional opportunities are
most valuable for mathematics teachers is growing but thus far is largely
descriptive, and it has not identified causal relationships between specific
aspects of preparation programs and measures of prospective teachers’
subsequent effectiveness. Nevertheless, the field of mathematics education
has established a firm consensus that to prepare effective K-12 mathematics
teachers, a program should provide prospective teachers with the knowl-
edge and skills described by the Conference Board of the Mathematical
Sciences:
• a deep understanding of the mathematics they will teach,
• ourses that focus on a thorough development of basic mathemati-
c
cal ideas, and
• ourses that develop careful reasoning and mathematical “common
c
sense” in analyzing conceptual relationships and solving problems,
and courses that develop the habits of mind of a mathematical
thinker.
6 Ongoing research offers the prospect of further insights. For instance, McCrory and her
colleagues are investigating the link between what is taught in college-level mathematics
classes designed for elementary teachers and what prospective teachers understand about
the mathematics they are taught (see McCrory and Cannata, 2007; see also http://meet.educ.
msu.edu/research.htm [February 2010]). Having surveyed 56 mathematics departments and
79 instructors, she has found that, on average, elementary teachers are expected to take two
mathematics classes, although this is increasing, especially for middle school certification. Her
research also indicates that instructors are committed and enthusiastic, but not necessarily
knowledgeable, about mathematics education.

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8 PREPARING TEACHERS
HOW MATHEMATICS TEACHERS ARE CuRRENTLy PREPARED
Concern about the adequacy of current teacher preparation in math-
ematics is unmistakable, and it is particularly sharp with regard to K-8
teachers. Evidence from many sources suggests that many teachers do not
have sufficient mathematical knowledge (see, e.g., Ball, 1991; Ma, 1999).
Specifically, as Wu (2002) has observed, “we have not done nearly enough
to help teachers understand the essential characteristics of mathematics: its
precision, the ubiquity of logical reasoning, and its coherence as a disci-
pline” (p. 2). Furthermore, there is reason to believe that teachers lack other
relevant professional knowledge as well, including mathematics-specific
pedagogical knowledge.
We had two major sources of information about how teacher prepara-
tion in mathematics is currently being conducted—state requirements and
coursework—although much of the information is somewhat indirect.
State Requirements
We begin with the requirements states have established for licensing
mathematics teachers, which influence the goals teacher preparation pro-
grams set for themselves. According to data collected by Editorial Projects
in Education, 33 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia require that
high school teachers have majored in the subject they plan to teach in order
to be certified, but only 3 states have that requirement for middle school
teachers (data from 2006 and 2008; see http://www.edcounts.org/ [Febru-
ary 2010]). Forty-two states require prospective teachers to pass a written
test in the subject in which they want to be certified, and six require passage
of a written test in subject-specific pedagogy.
Limited information is available on the content of teacher certification
tests. A study of certification and licensure examinations in mathematics by
the Education Trust (1999) reviewed the level of mathematics knowledge
necessary to succeed on the tests required of secondary mathematics teach-
ers. The authors found that the tests rarely assessed content that exceeded
knowledge that an 11th or 12th grader would be expected to have and
did not reflect the deep knowledge of the subject one would expect of a
college-educated mathematics major or someone who had done advanced
study of school mathematics. Moreover, the Education Trust found that
the cut scores (for passing or failing) for most state licensure examinations
are so low that prospective teachers do not even need to have a working
knowledge of high school mathematics in order to pass. Although this
study is modest, its results align with the general perception that state tests
for teacher certification do not reflect ambitious conceptions of content
knowledge.

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PREPARING MATHEMATICS TEACHERS
The prevalence of so-called out-of-field teachers, those who are not
certified in the subject they are teaching, is another indication that states
sometimes find it difficult to ensure that mathematics teachers are well
prepared. We discuss this issue below.
Coursework
The Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences (CBMS) conducts
a survey every 5 years of undergraduate education in mathematics in the
United States, and it includes some questions about the preparation of K-12
mathematics teachers (Lutzer, Maxwell, and Rodi, 2007). The most recent
report describes the complexity of developing a statistical profile of under-
graduate mathematics preparation programs because of their variation.
However, Lutzer and colleagues report that 56 percent of programs have
the same requirements for mathematics certification for all K-8 teachers of
mathematics, regardless of the level (e.g., kindergarten or 8th grade) those
candidates intended to teach. They also found that the average number of
mathematics courses required for K-8 teachers was 2.1.
For teachers seeking K-8 mathematics certification, 4 percent of pro-
grams do not require any mathematics courses, 63 percent require one or
two courses, 33 percent require three or four courses, and none requires five
or more courses. In contrast, 58 percent of programs require five or more
courses for teachers of the upper elementary grades.7 Thus, most programs
fall well short of the recommendations of The Mathematical Education of
Teachers (Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences, 2001), and some
members of the mathematics community believe the subject-knowledge re-
quirements should be even more demanding than those recommendations.
With the analyses of Florida commissioned for our study, we were able
to look in more detail at the average number of mathematics credits earned
by Florida teachers by certification area: see Table 6-1. Although these data
do not provide information about the content or nature of the coursework,
they do suggest significant overall exposure to mathematics, corresponding
roughly to 4 three-credit courses for elementary teachers, 15 courses for
teachers certified for middle school mathematics, and 19 courses for teach-
ers certified for high school mathematics.8
7 These results correspond to McCrory’s emerging results as well as the self-reports of
new teachers surveyed as part of the Teacher Pathways Project being conducted by the
University at Albany and Stanford University (see http://www.teacherpolicyresearch.org/
TeacherPathwaysProject/tabid/81/Default.aspx [February 2010]).
8 One possible explanation for this relatively high number of courses—in comparison with
those typical in other states and programs—is that if many of Florida’s courses are remedial
or elementary in nature, they would be likely to meet frequently each week, thus yielding a
high number of credit hours.

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20 PREPARING TEACHERS
TABLE 6-1 Mean Mathematics Credit Hours, Florida Mathematics
Teachers
Noneducation Noneducation
Math Math Statistics
Certification Area Education Credit Hours Credit Hours
Elementary School 4.43 5.56 1.90
[N = 3,684]
Middle School 14.42 27.27 3.84
[N = 244]
High School 17.72 34.88 4.58
[N = 216]
NOTE: Samples include only teachers with 100 or more known credit hours in university-
designated courses taken in Florida public community colleges and universities prior to their
first year of teaching in Florida public schools.
SOURCE: Data from Sass (2008, Tables B10a, B10b, B10c).
In terms of the actual content of the coursework to which aspiring
mathematics teachers are exposed, there are few sources.9 The Education
Commission of the States has assembled information about whether or not
states require that teacher preparation programs align their curricula with
the state’s K-12 curriculum standards or their standards for teachers (or
both), which offers an indirect indicator (see http://www.ecs.org/). Of the
50 states and American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto
Rico, and the Virgin Islands, 25 require alignment with both, and 16 have
no policy for either (as of 2006); another 8 require only alignment with
the K-12 curriculum, and 6 require only alignment with standards for
teachers.
A survey of first-year teachers in New York City that was part of our
commissioned analysis included questions about their preparation and pro-
vides some additional hints about content (Grossman et al., 2008). Current
elementary teachers and middle and secondary level mathematics teachers
were asked about the extent to which their teacher preparation program
gave them the opportunity to do and learn a variety of things, such as learn-
ing about the typical difficulties students have with aspects of mathematics.
The new teachers rated their opportunities on a 5-point scale, with 1 being
no opportunity and 5 being extensive opportunity. The teaching activities
covered in the survey were described in short phrases, so few conclusions
9 Greenberg and Walsh conducted a study (National Council on Teacher Quality, 2007) in
which they analyzed course syllabi and textbook content to gain a sense of the mathematics
preparation provided to elementary teachers, but syllabi and textbook content are very inexact
measures of course content.

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PREPARING MATHEMATICS TEACHERS
can be drawn about the extent to which they track with the kinds of ap-
proaches we describe above. Nevertheless, the teachers’ responses to sev-
eral of the questions that seem most congruent with the kinds of teaching
advocated by the mathematics education community are suggestive: see
Table 6-2. Elementary teachers reported taking an average of 1.81 courses
in mathematics; they also reported having a modest exposure to learning
about the difficulties their students might have with place value or algebra.
Although the survey was small in scale, it does suggest that New York City
teachers who graduated recently from a teacher education program do not
receive extensive exposure to these elements.
Other evidence comes from a study in which the preparation of U.S.
middle school mathematics teachers was compared with that of their coun-
terparts in other countries (Schmidt et al., 2007). The study, which com-
pared teachers’ knowledge and skills in mathematics and mathematical
pedagogy, found that U.S. teachers scored in the middle or close to the
bottom in comparison with teachers in the countries whose students per-
formed well on the TIMSS study. The results suggested possible differences
in preparation across countries, and the study’s authors concluded that the
TABLE 6-2 New York City Teachers’ Reported Exposure to Mathematics
Preparation
Opportunity to Learn Mathematics Education
Mean Response on 1-5 Scalea
Approach or Strategy
Elementary Teachers
Learn typical difficulties students have with 2.71
place value.
Practice what you learned about teaching 3.26
math in your field experience.
How many courses did you take in the 1.81 [not on 5-point scale]
teaching of math at the college level?
Secondary Teachers
Learn different ways that students solve 3.34
particular problems.
Learn theoretical concepts and ideas 3.36
underlying mathematical applications.
Learn about typical difficulties students have 2.5
with algebra.
NOTE: Results are for teachers who attended an undergraduate teacher preparation program.
Data are also available for teachers who followed other pathways.
aA respondent who rated his or her exposure as a 3 would be indicating that it was roughly
halfway between none at all and extensive.
SOURCE: Data from Matt Ronfeldt, University of Michigan (personal communication,
2008).

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22 PREPARING TEACHERS
preparation available to U.S. teachers provided less “extensive educational
opportunities in mathematics and in the practical aspects of teaching math-
ematics to students in the middle grades” (Schmidt et al., 2007, p. 2). The
researchers were not able to use representative samples of teachers in each
country; they relied on convenience samples. A comparative study of math-
ematics teachers’ preparation and mathematical knowledge using national
probability samples is currently being conducted by the International As-
sociation for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (see http://www.
iea.nl/teds-m.html [November 2009]).
Many students, particularly at the secondary level, are taught math-
ematics by teachers who are not certified in that subject (because of a dearth
of certified teachers), and these teachers are likely to have taken even fewer
courses in mathematics than certified mathematics teachers. The problem
is more acute in mathematics than in other subjects. The National Center
for Education Statistics (2003a) reports that in the 1999-2000 school year,
23.0 percent of middle school students and 10.1 percent of secondary stu-
dents were taught mathematics by a teacher who was not certified to teach
mathematics and had not majored in it. (Note that the grades encompassed
by middle school, as well as the requirements to teach at that level, vary.)
Using data from the Schools and Staffing Survey, Richard Ingersoll (2008)
found that 38 percent of the teachers who taught mathematics to grades 7
through 12 did not have either a major or a minor in mathematics, math-
ematics education, or a related field. The problem is greatest in high-poverty
schools, where students are approximately twice as likely to have a math-
ematics teacher who is not certified in the subject. A study of the effects of
teachers’ credentials on student achievement (Clotfelter, Ladd, and Vigdor,
2007) provides evidence that students whose teachers are certified in the
subject they teach achieve at higher levels than students whose teachers are
not, particularly in algebra and geometry.
At the state level, there is other evidence of out-of-field teaching. The
California Council on Science and Technology (2007) conducted an analy-
sis of career pathways for that state’s mathematics and science teachers.
They found that 10 percent of middle school and 12 percent of high school
mathematics teachers were teaching out of field, and that 40 percent of
novice high school mathematics teachers were not well prepared (defined
as lacking a preliminary credential). The percentages are highest in low-
performing and high-minority schools. They also found that California
lacks the capacity to meet the growing demand for fully prepared math-
ematics (and science) teachers and that the state is not collecting the data
necessary to monitor teacher supply and demand.
Our review of these disparate sources of information leaves us with a
reasonably firm basis for concluding that many, perhaps most, K-8 math-
ematics teachers are not adequately prepared, either because they have not

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received enough mathematics and pedagogical preparation or because they
have not received the right sort of preparation; the picture is somewhat less
clear for middle and high school teachers. There is relatively scant specific
information about precisely what it is that teacher preparation programs
do, or fail to do, but there is relatively good evidence that mathematics
preparation for prospective teachers provides insufficient coursework in
mathematics as a discipline and mathematical pedagogy. Some might sug-
gest that, given the prevalence of out-of-field mathematics teachers, raising
standards for aspiring teachers may exacerbate shortages, particularly in
high-poverty areas. The committee’s view is that the more relevant question
is whether there are shortages of adequately prepared teachers.
CONCLuSIONS
From our review of what mathematics teacher preparation programs
ought to be doing, and the information we could find about what they are
doing, three key points seem clear. First, there is a strong basis for defin-
ing clear expectations for teacher preparation programs for mathematics
content and pedagogy, on the basis of some research and the considered
judgments of mathematicians and mathematics educators. Second, the lim-
ited information available suggests that most programs would probably not
currently meet those expectations. Third, systematic data about the content
of mathematics teacher preparation are sorely lacking.
Regarding what students need to know, mathematicians and math-
ematics educators are in accord that successful mathematics learning is
most likely when core topics in school mathematics and the five strands
of mathematical proficiency identified in Adding It Up (conceptual under-
standing, procedural fluency, strategic competence, adaptive reasoning,
and productive disposition) are interwoven at each level of schooling, and
students are provided with a coherent curriculum in which clear objectives,
based on a logical conception of the mathematics learning trajectory, guide
each year of mathematics study. This proposition has logical implications
for teacher preparation.
Conclusion 6-1: It is plausible that to provide students with the instruc-
tional opportunities they need to develop successfully in mathematics,
teachers need preparation that covers knowledge of mathematics, of
how students learn mathematics, and of mathematical pedagogy, and
that is aligned with the recommendations of professional societies.
We particularly note the importance of the knowledge and skills de-
scribed in Chapter 2 of The Mathematical Education of Teachers (Con-
ference Board of the Mathematical Sciences, 2001). However, there is

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2 PREPARING TEACHERS
currently no clear evidence that particular approaches to preparation do
indeed improve teacher effectiveness, nor clear evidence about how such
preparation should be carried out.
Because strong preparation in both mathematics content and math-
ematics pedagogy are important, it seems logical that the preparation of
mathematics teachers should be the joint responsibility of faculties of edu-
cation and mathematics and statistics. We recognize that this is not a simple
matter because of the many competing demands that face faculty in these
fields, but we believe that close collaboration among mathematics faculty
and mathematics education faculty is the only realistic means of provid-
ing the necessary preparation. Such collaboration could both promote re-
search designed to improve the education of teacher candidates and provide
teacher candidates with an education that seamlessly integrates mathemat-
ics learning and pedagogical learning.
The data regarding what is currently happening in teacher preparation
for mathematics is extremely limited, but the information that is available
clearly indicates that such preparation is not sufficient. That is, because
it appears that many preparation programs fall short of guidelines such
as The Mathematical Education of Teachers recommendations, it is likely
that:
Conclusion 6-2: Many, perhaps most, mathematics teachers lack the
level of preparation in mathematics and teaching that the professional
community deems adequate to teach mathematics. In addition, there
are unacceptably high numbers of teachers of middle and high school
mathematics courses who are teaching out of field.
Given the limited evidence base about the effectiveness of different
approaches to preparing teachers of mathematics and about the nature of
current preparation approaches, additional research is needed:
Conclusion 6-3: Both quantitative and qualitative data about the pro-
grams of study in mathematics offered and required at teacher prepara-
tion institutions are needed, as is research to improve understanding of
what sorts of preparation approaches are most effective at developing
effective teachers.