Marni Driessen
Getting it right from the start. See the impact of Primarily Math       

Primarily Math is the story of outstanding Nebraska elementary teachers who have accepted the challenge to return to graduate school to study mathematics and the teaching of mathematics. It is also a story of the faculty and graduate students at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln who are engaging in research to help us learn more about the potential of programs such as Primarily Math to impact the achievement of young children as they begin their journey from the first day of kindergarten to high school graduation.

Primarily Math has a significant positive impact on teachers and students

Primarily Math is an 18-hour, 14-month graduate program leading to a K-3 Math Specialist Certificate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Thanks to the generous support of The Sherwood Foundation® and the Lozier Foundation, we offered OPS K-3 teachers the opportunity to participate in this outstanding program at no cost to the teacher for tuition or fees. Primarily Math has a significant positive impact on teachers and students. For more information about the impact of Primarily Math, see our Primarily Math Impact site.

Primarily Math is ideal for K-3 teachers who enjoy teaching mathematics and seek to develop special strengths with respect to mathematical and pedagogical knowledge needed to transfer their knowledge and skills into enhanced learning in their classrooms. To date, 363 teachers have participated in Primarily Math including 88 OPS teachers. Our experience is that teachers who complete the program earning the K-3 Math Specialist Certificate assume leadership roles in their schools and districts focused on strengthening the mathematics education of K-3 students.

How to Apply: The application is a two-part process. Be sure to read through the application requirements for the K-3 Math Specialist Certificate. The first step is to apply to UNL Graduate Studies (click on the Apply Now button). On the application, under Admission Classification, choose "Non-Degree, Graduate Certificate Objective" and select "Graduate Certificate in K-3 Mathematics Specialist" from the drop-down menu. Once that application is processed, you will be sent a link to the GAMES system. Within GAMES, you will upload your application materials for Primarily Math, such as the essay and letters of recommendation.

Primarily Math: Success Stories

The publication "Primarily Math: Success Stories" tells the story of Primarily Math, a teaching, research and development program for K-3 teachers through 2013. NebraskaMATH is immensely proud of the teachers in Primarily Math. They are a wonderful resource for improving the teaching and learning of mathematics in the primary grades. Download a copy of "Primarily Math: Success Stories.

K-3 Math Specialist Certificate Program

Participating OPS teachers take three mathematics courses and three education courses to earn 18 graduate credit hours from UNL. OPS TLA funds paid tuition and fees for the teachers. An optional leadership course was available some years to teachers who complete the core 18-hour program.

Each Primarily Math summer institute uses the concentrated immersion approach developed by the Math in the Middle program. During summers, paired classes meet 8-5 daily (Monday-Friday) for two weeks with nightly homework. At the end of a course, teachers complete an End-of-Course assignment designed to support the long-term retention of material studied in the course. Thus, teachers are able to earn 6 graduate credits each summer while being in class for only two weeks. While this approach is intense, support for participants is substantial. This approach has proved to be quite popular with teachers because it protects most of the summer for other activities.

During academic year courses, each semester participants take a 3-credit graduate course, using a "blended distance education" format. Teachers will attend some in-person course meetings on Saturdays, and will complete other assignments via UNL's Blackboard website.

Course Number Title
1 Math 800P Number and Operation Part I (Summer 1)
2 Math 801P Number and Operation Part II (Summer 1)
3 TEAC 808A Teaching Math K-3: Planning Lessons for Diverse Learners (Fall)
4 TEAC 808J Helping Young Children Become Mathematical Thinkers (Spring)
5 Math 802P Geometry and Algebraic Thinking (Summer 2)
6 TEAC 907 Communities of Practice and Mathematics (Summer 2)

Springboard to a Master's Degree

More than 50 Primarily Math participants are building on their Primarily Math graduate education to pursue a master's degree. The 18 graduate credit hours earned through Primarily Math mean that participants are halfway to a master's degree. For more information about applying and using Primarily Math credits toward a master's degree from UNL's Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education, please visit the Master's Degree Possibilities page. The typical Primarily Math participant completes a master's degree by taking TEAC 800 Inquiry into Teaching and Learning (required), TEAC 801 Curriculum Inquiry (required), Math 803P Algebraic Thinking in the K-4 Classroom, Math 804P Problem Solving in the Elementary Classroom, TEAC 890 Responsive Instruction in the Elementary Classroom, and TEAC 889 Master's Seminar (required). The elective courses may include those listed or may be related to teaching ELL students, assessment, diverse learners, or other issues of teaching and learning. Teachers plan and carry out a summative classroom research project to study their own teaching as part of the requirements of the master's degree.