One in every 17 math courses in Florida is taught by an educator who entered the profession from a non-traditional route¹. The UF Lastinger Center for Learning’s Math Matrix is providing online, on-demand, discipline-specific mathematics professional development to educators across the state.
With 42% of Florida’s eighth-grade students performing below Basic on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), the time to invest in mathematics teacher education to improve student learning is now.
For the 2022-2023 school year, K-12 mathematics was listed as a critical shortage area by the Florida Department of Education. Critical shortage areas are those in which 1) a substantial proportion of teachers are not certified in the appropriate field 2) significant vacancies exist and 3) postsecondary institutions are not producing enough graduates to meet K-12 needs. In Florida, the shortage of high-quality mathematics teachers is both an issue of too few teachers entering the profession and too few staying.
To increase the number of teachers entering the profession, many districts in Florida have established content-agnostic alternative certification pathways² that provide aspiring teachers a faster and more economical route to the classroom. To address teacher retention, districts often invest in non-discipline-specific professional learning programs, typically provided over the summer. While these initiatives are good first steps, the reality of the teacher shortage in general highlights the need for flexible, on-demand, professional learning for both new and experienced teachers. For math in particular, the need for content-specific professional learning is clearly supported by studies that positively correlate teachers’ mathematical knowledge with student learning outcomes³.
Responding to a need
In 2021, the UF Lastinger Center for Learning piloted a prototype of the Math Matrix – a competency-based, flexible, high-impact approach to professional development. The initial pilot involved secondary mathematics teachers’ experiences with two modules: Foundations of Algebraic Reasoning and Instruction of Algebraic Reasoning.
Although the initial pilot was small in scope, results were promising. Valuable insights were gained into user experience of the learning management system as well as into teacher perceptions of learning assets (e.g., videos, handouts), all of which have informed the development of subsequent Math Matrix modules.
“The initial results of our latest pilot are quite promising. The teachers are reporting that the content is relevant and practical to their day-to-day work. We believe that the knowledge and skills they gain will benefit their students and we are excited about what is to come!” – Zandra de Araujo, Chief Equity Officer and Mathematics Principal
In January 2023, the UF Lastinger Center launched an expanded Math Matrix pilot. Forty teachers from Broward and Osceola counties and Teach for America piloted the Big Picture, which focuses on pedagogical building blocks for teaching mathematics and courses centered on knowledge and skills for teaching key algebraic reasoning and understanding functions. The Math Matrix also aligns mathematics instruction with research-based practices identified by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
”Learning about the difference between deficit-based learning and strength-based learning made me aware of when I focused more on the students’ weaknesses rather than their strengths. I am going to continue to create goals that target students’ needs and do differentiated instruction because I know that my students succeed with different strategies.” – María Barrios, Math Matrix pilot participant
Future iterations of Math Matrix aim to be even more responsive to teacher needs by developing it into a recommendation system that provides relevant and timely supports for teachers in relation to their needs and those of their students, and will explore the incorporation of simulation-based learning so teachers can put their skills and knowledge into practice.
The Math Matrix was built upon the successful professional learning strategies used in the Lastinger Center’s Literacy Matrix. Developed in 2018 in partnership with the James Patterson Family Foundation and the Florida Department of Education, the Literacy Matrix is Florida’s comprehensive, online, on-demand path to the Reading Endorsement. Since its initial launch, the Literacy Matrix has equipped more than 5,500 K-12 educators with the knowledge and skill to implement evidence-based reading instruction for striving readers.
Partnering for impact
Recognizing that improving student outcomes cannot be achieved by one program, one funder or one organization, the Lastinger Center sees great potential to impact teachers across Florida with the Math Matrix, just as it did with the Literacy Matrix in 2018. As the Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2030 Blueprint Goal Leader for Mathematics, the UF Lastinger Center will work with strategic partners throughout the state to pursue the goal of 100% of Florida 8th graders reading & performing math at or above grade level. The Math Matrix is the first step, providing online, on-demand discipline-specific mathematics professional development to more aspiring and experienced mathematics educators throughout the state.
To learn more about collaborating with the Math Matrix team, contact Dr. Zandra de Araujo.
1 & 2. Greer, L., de Araujo, Z., Steiner, E. (2022). Florida K-12 Mathematics Teachers’ Credentials and Preparations: Findings from the 2022 Learn Together Surveys. RAND Corporation.
3. Hill, H. C., Rowan, B., & Ball, D. L. (2005). Effects of Teachers’ Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching on Student Achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 42(2), 371-406.