Nothing is better on a report card than an “A+,” which is just the grade that Clemson’s elementary math education program has received on the national stage.
The Clemson University College of Education’s undergraduate elementary teacher preparation program has earned an A+ from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) when it comes to ensuring future elementary teachers have the essential content and skills they need to teach mathematics. This ranking places the program among the best in the nation.
NCTQ recently released a report in which the undergraduate program at Clemson University earned this designation for its elementary mathematics requirements. The program is among only 79 programs in the nation to earn this distinction as an “exemplar” in the new report.
According to Andrew Tyminski, associate professor in the College of Education, a student’s success in math in early grades tends to have a ripple effect on their learning across all subjects.
“Mathematical success in early grades is an indicator for future success,” Tyminski said. “Children need both a conceptual and procedural understanding of numbers and their operations. With support from teachers, they will discover a wide range of solution strategies and build upon them to develop efficient ways of operating with understanding.”
NCTQ evaluated programs for their coverage of the critical mathematics content that elementary teachers need: numbers and operations, algebraic thinking, geometry and measurement, and data analysis and probability, as well as how to teach those concepts.
NCTQ set the recommended minimum instructional time that future elementary teachers need in these essential math topics based on guidance it received from teacher preparation programs, mathematicians and math educators as part of an expert panel. Clemson University stands apart by meeting 100% of the instructional goals across each elementary mathematics topic area.
Tyminski said Clemson faculty excel in preparing students because they understand that all children are different and think in different ways. He said Clemson alumni teaching in elementary schools across the state and nation get through to all learners because they possess a deep knowledge of the content they teach and – just as importantly – an understanding of children’s thinking.
“The ‘one strategy fits all’ approach to instruction of the past is no longer useful if we are looking for children to do more than just produce an answer as fast as possible,” Tyminski said. “A 21st-century student needs to reason, think and problem solve; that outcome won’t happen by only focusing on using standard algorithms in repetitive and mindless ways.”
Research studies have found that elementary math skills are a strong predictor of whether or not a student will graduate from high school. Recent data has found that students in many states have lost more learning in math than in reading over the past two years, and pre-existing gaps in math achievement have worsened since 2020 between low-poverty and high-poverty schools and between majority-white and majority-Black schools.
According to NCTQ President Heather Peske, the need for elementary teachers to be well-prepared to teach mathematics has never been more urgent.
“We know how much math matters in setting a foundation for students,” Peske said. “The biggest in-school difference we can make for students’ math learning is to make sure their elementary teachers understand key math content and know-how to teach math effectively. Clemson University should be proud to be among the top teacher preparation programs in the country working toward this goal.”
According to George J. Petersen, founding dean of the College of Education, the ranking showcases how faculty have ensured that their approach to preparing teachers remains cutting edge, student-centered and holistic.
“This ranking reveals what district partners, parents and our alumni have known for years: our College is a best-in-class institution that excels in preparing teachers for the classroom,” Petersen said. “Effective mathematics teaching is challenging for educators because it demands a wide range of knowledge and skills. It is clear that our faculty have risen to the challenge of properly preparing the next generation of educators.”
NCTQ is a national research and policy organization that regularly evaluates the core requirements and practices of over 1,100 programs that prepare future elementary teachers.
To see the full NCTQ report to learn more about how Clemson University earned this top score, all scores for elementary teacher preparation programs in South Carolina and the full national findings, click here.
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