Getting it right from the start.

Kristy Kennedy

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. Courses during the first summer are held in July and then in June the second summer so that all 18 credits are eligible to be listed on one EETP loan forgiveness application for this graduate certificate program.

Apply by May 3rd for 2024 summer admission

Primarily Math is open to all teachers across Nebraska. In Summer 2024, Math 800P will be July 8-12 and 15-16 and Math 801P will be July 17-19 and 22-26 via web conferencing. These two courses are completed in three weeks.

Read through the application requirements for the K-3 Math Specialist Certificate. When you are ready to apply, go to Graduate Studies and create an account on CollegeNET. Fill out each step of the application. Under Program Selection, search for "k-3" and choose "K-3 Mathematics Specialist (Graduate Certificate)" and Summer 2024 for the term. This application requires a resume/CV, personal Statement and two letters of recommendation. Please note that applications that are in progress will not be seen by the program advisors until fully submitted.

A 20% tuition discount automatically applies for the Primarily Math summer courses, and teachers can apply for additional NMSSI Fellowships in March to further reduce the costs.

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 2018, 63 teachers across three cohorts in ESU 3 finished the program.

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 open to teachers across Nebraska, they are offered via web conferencing or online. For any in-person sections, course schedules are determined in cooperation with the hosting districts.

Each Primarily Math summer institute uses the concentrated immersion approach developed by the Math in the Middle program. During summers, classes in MATH and TEAC can be paired to meet 8-5 daily (Monday-Friday) for two weeks with nightly homework. At the end of a math 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 (or three) 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 online via UNL's Canvas website. Teachers who cannot take fall/spring semesters can opt to take additional TEAC courses in the summer semesters.

Course Number Title
1 Math 800P Number and Operation Part I (even years)
2 Math 801P Number and Operation Part II (even years)
3 TEAC 836G Professional Development: Mathematics Leadership (even years)
4 TEAC 807C Equitable Practices in Mathematics Education: Classroom Discourse (odd years)
5 Math 802P Geometry and Algebraic Thinking (odd years)
6 Three options, choose one: (odd years) TEAC 808G: Improvement of Instruction in School Mathematics: Manipulatives; TEAC 848G: Mathematics Curriculum Analysis and Design; or TEAC 807A: Equitable Practices in Mathematics Education: Identity, Access, and Equity

Springboard to a Master's Degree

More than 100 Primarily Math participants have built 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 more than 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 email us at The typical Primarily Math participant completes a master's degree by also taking Math 803P: Algebraic Thinking in the K-4 Classroom, Math 804P: Problem Solving in the Elementary Classroom and TEAC courses from this site: Elective courses 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.

Please note that the K-3 Mathematics Specialist Certificate is a certificate from the University of Nebraska Board of Regents and is not an official certification program for adding to your state license.