Teachers with students

About the Meeting

To promote better mathematics teaching and learning in the elementary grades, mathematics education leaders and leading national, mathematics education professional organizations have, for many years, recommended the use of mathematics specialists in PK–5 schools. In response, 19 states have enacted formal certification requirements for elementary mathematics specialists (EMS). Illinois is currently not among those states.

Mathematicians and mathematics educators from three Illinois universities—DePaul University, The University of Chicago, and The University of Illinois at Chicago—have been working to encourage the establishment of formal EMS certification criteria in Illinois. With funding from the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust and the CME Group Foundation, they have developed and are piloting a prototype for such a certification program.

This working meeting aims to engage a variety of stakeholders, including administrators at the school, district and regional levels, representatives from ISBE, and University educators, in discussing a strategic path forward for establishing, and then implementing, EMS certification in Illinois.

The meeting will include:

  • A keynote address by Dr. Francis (Skip) Fennell, former NCTM President and the nation’s leading authority on EMS certification;
  • An overview of EMS certification requirements in other states;
  • Descriptions of different models in use across the country for using math specialists in Grades PK–5;
  • Discussion about the benefits and challenges of implementing an EMS model in schools and districts;
  • Information about the prototype EMS certification program developed jointly by DePaul, UIC, and UChicago, including course outlines and syllabi;
  • Collaborative development of action plans for next steps for various stakeholders.


Illinois mathematics teacher educators and mathematicians; representatives from Regional Offices of Education, Intermediate Service Centers, and ISBE; school and school district administrators; and other Illinois mathematics education leaders.

Higher education applicants should have interest in exploring the possibility of establishing an EMS certification program at their institution. School and district applicants should have interest in adopting an EMS model. Participants, particularly those from universities and colleges, are encouraged to apply in teams of 2–3 individuals, representing the departments involved with mathematics teacher education or in-service teacher development.

Host Organizations:

DePaul University STEM Center and DePaul College of Education; UIC Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science and UIC Learning Sciences Research Institute; UChicago STEM Education and University of Chicago Department of Mathematics; West 40 Intermediate Service Center; South Cook Intermediate Service Center; Chicago Public Schools Department of STEM

Funding for this working meeting is provided by a grant from the Chicago Community Trust.

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