Kristy Kennedy
Investing in Greater Nebraska See the impact of Primarily Math

Primarily Math holds cohort in Central Nebraska

Primarily Math is for outstanding Nebraska elementary teachers (grades K-3) who have accepted the challenge to return to graduate school to study mathematics and the teaching of mathematics. The program has been proven to be effective in strengthening teachers’ mathematical and pedagogical knowledge, and in increasing students’ mathematical achievement (see the Impact of Primarily Math for a summary of the research). Teachers earn a K-3 Mathematics Specialist Certificate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln upon completion of the 18-hour graduate program. To date, 363 teachers from across Nebraska have completed Primarily Math. Thanks to an Improving Teacher Quality (ITQ) grant from the U.S. Department of Education awarded through the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education and an award from Women Investing in Nebraska (WIN), a new cohort of Primarily Math for Greater Nebraska completed their coursework in June 2017.

Primarily Math wins grant award from Women Investing in Nebraska

Primarily Math, a program of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with objectives to transform K–3 mathematics education in Nebraska, received a $53,700 grant award from Women Investing in Nebraska on Oct. 1, 2015. The program is an initiative of the Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education, the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education. The university will use the funding to offer the Primarily Math program, which started with the National Science Foundation grant NebraskaMATH in 2009, to even more high-need school districts across the state. It helps teachers with their own knowledge of mathematics and improves the teaching of mathematics in primary school grades.

“Receiving this award is an honor because it provides us with the opportunity to continue to work with a group of outstanding individuals: the teachers charged with educating Nebraska’s children,” said Michelle Homp, research assistant professor with the UNL Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education. “We believe that no endeavor is more worthy, and we’re very grateful to Women Investing in Nebraska.”

“Women Investing in Nebraska’s investment in Primarily Math means more elementary school students will receive great mathematics education in their classrooms,” said Lisa Smith, chair of the Women Investing in Nebraska executive committee. “It’s incredible to know how important this will be for Nebraska’s teachers and their students.”

Why Choose Primarily Math?

Primarily Math is the only graduate program in Nebraska designed specifically for teachers of kindergarten and grades 1, 2 and 3, focusing on the subject areas of mathematics and mathematical pedagogy. Historically, formal education in the primary grades focused on the socialization of young children and teaching children to read. A lesser importance was assigned to teaching mathematics in the early grades and to showing elementary teachers how to teach mathematics. There is, however, a growing body of research that argues that the early years matter for the development of mathematical thinking and reasoning. Duncan and his colleagues reported that both math and reading skills at the point of school entry are consistently associated with higher levels of academic performance in later grades. However, early math skills not only predicted later achievement in math, but also in reading skills (Duncan et al., 2007).

Primarily Math gives you the training and leadership to be a K-3 Math Specialist at your school or district. Other benefits include:

  1. Teachers participate in a cohort, which takes all six courses together. It is summer-intensive and requires implementation of projects into a classroom environment, with a few weekend meetings, during the academic year. Since 2009, we have witnessed 13 cohorts of Primarily Math form close bonds with one another, and across cohorts.
  2. Past participants of Primarily Math co-teach all of the courses with University of Nebraska faculty and graduate students from the three campuses UNL, UNO and UNK.
  3. The mathematics courses in the summers model the pedagogy NebraskaMATH wants teachers to use. Learning is active, with small-group work, participant presentations and whole group discussions. Math courses have daily problem sets with problems ranging from straightforward to accessible but challenging “habits of mind” problems designed to develop the “habits of mind of a mathematical thinker.”
  4. Pedagogy courses are taught during the academic year, so that participants can complete assignments that directly tie course content to their teaching practices, including work with both students and parents. The courses focus on helping teachers become more intentional, planful, observant, and reflective in their teaching of all students.
  5. Between the faculty at several campuses, more than 300 past participants, and the staff at the UNL Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education, there is a robust support system in place for Primarily Math teachers, both during and after the program. You become a part of the NebraskaMATH team.


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. Click here 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.