Preparing Middle School Math Teachers

The goal of the program is to increase the number of math teachers in California schools and better prepare middle school and high school math teachers

January 29, 2007

By Debra Cano Ramos

As a former middle school and high school math teacher, Mark Ellis, assistant professor of secondary education, understands how critical it is to captivate students about the study of numbers, shapes and quantities before they enter high school.

“It’s the time when you can reach the students who have fallen behind in math understanding and knowledge and get them to reconsider their attitudes about math,” he said. “By the time they reach high school, they are not so willing to revisit math.”


Today, Ellis is indirectly influencing those students as he oversees Cal State Fullerton’s Foundational Level Mathematics (FLM) teacher credential program, offered through the College of Education. The goal of the program is to increase the number of math teachers in California schools and better prepare middle school and high school math teachers.

“Historically, California has not offered a middle school credential in mathematics. Now there’s an option to work toward a single-subject credential and it helps to fulfill the need to put better prepared teachers in the middle schools,” Ellis said.


In 2003, the State Department of Education created the FLM credential to address California’s shortage of qualified mathematics teachers in middle and high schools. As a result, the program opened a new pathway for undergraduates and professionals who are strong in math, but didn’t major in math, to become math teachers, Ellis said.

He said that today a larger number of California’s eighth graders are studying algebra, which translates to a need for prepared middle school math teachers.

The FLM credential is attracting students, many coming from careers in business and engineering, with strong math backgrounds, Ellis said.
After completion of the program, the credential allows teaching in general mathematics, algebra, geometry, probability and statistics in grades 6 through 12. Those who earn the credential often teach at middle schools, Ellis said.


Over the last year, Ellis has promoted the FLM credential by creating a Web site, distributing fliers to area school districts and making presentations to community college counselors.

“In the long run, I hope this program has a positive impact on middle school and high school students’ learning of mathematics in local schools, adding to the ongoing efforts of my colleagues in the Department of Mathematics at Cal State Fullerton,” he said.

The number of teachers credentialed in mathematics at CSUF has doubled since the addition of the FLM program, Ellis added.

In addition, the College of Education plans to launch a new graduate program, the master of science in education with an emphasis in middle school mathematics education, designed for experienced middle school math teachers. Classroom and online courses will be offered.

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