Kristy Kennedy
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.

Application Open until April 15, 2019

Applications are now being accepted for teachers in ESU 16 including North Platte Public Schools. Read through the application requirements for the K-3 Math Specialist Certificate. When you are ready to apply, scroll down and click on the "START THE APPLICATION PROCESS AT GRADUATE STUDIES" button or on the Graduate Studies page, click on the Apply Now button to complete the first application, which is being admitted to UNL as a "Non-Degree, Graduate Certificate Objective" student. Choose "Graduate Certificate in K-3 Mathematics Specialist" from the drop-down menu on the application. Please allow three business days for Graduate Studies to admit you as a student. Afterward, you will be sent a link to the GAMES system to upload your Primarily Math application materials (see application requirements for the essay topics) and officially apply for the K-3 Math Specialist Certificate. That application is due in GAMES by April 15, 2019.

Strengthening Math Education in K-3

Primarily Math began as one component of NebraskaMATH, a $9.2 million Math Science Partnership to UNL from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The goal of Primarily Math is to strengthen kindergarten to third-grade teachers’ mathematical and pedagogical knowledge for teaching and their professional interactions with other teachers in their schools, while improving attitudes toward the teaching and learning of mathematics. Teachers earn a K-3 Mathematics Specialist Certificate from UNL upon completion of the 18-hour graduate program. To date, more than 450 teachers have completed the program.

The original proposal to NSF only anticipated serving 120 teachers but because of substantial demand for the Primarily Math program, NebraskaMATH leadership worked to reallocate resources and extended the opportunity to more teachers. In 2012, districts such as Blair and Papillion-La Vista requested the program be opened to more teachers.

Thanks to the generous support of The Sherwood Foundation® and the Lozier Foundation in Omaha, 99 Omaha Public Schools K-3 teachers were able to participate in this outstanding program at no cost to the teacher for tuition or fees through the OPS Teacher Leader Academy from 2013 to 2017. Lincoln Public Schools decided to use its Title I funds to allow 40 more teachers to complete Primarily Math in 2014-2015, adding to its 80 teachers who previously completed the program. Grants in 2015 from Women Investing in Nebraska and the U.S. Department of Education allowed 13 more teachers across the state to participate as a Greater Nebraska cohort, convening in Central Nebraska. Districts in Educational Service Unit 3 continue to support teachers to participate in Primarily Math. Between 2014 and 2017, 46 teachers across two cohorts in ESU 3 finished the program, with another cohort currently accepting applications. In 2018, North Platte Public Schools will also be starting a cohort for its district that will be open to all ESU 16 teachers.

To discuss starting a cohort of Primarily Math in your district, please contact us at

K-3 Math Specialist Certificate Program

As Primarily Math courses are offered across Nebraska, in some locations they are offered as two courses each summer across three summers, and in other locations are offered as two courses each of two summers, with one course each in the intervening fall and spring semesters. Course schedules are determined in cooperation with hosting districts.

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

Springboard to a Master's Degree

More than 80 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.


Photo of Kellie and Lynn

Kellie and Lynn

Photo of Allie


Photo of Lacey


Photo of Michaela


Photo of Frances


Photo of Danielle