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Mathematics Specialists

The Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition gratefully acknowledges the support for developing Mathematics Specialist programs in Virginia that has been provided by the National Science Foundation under Grant No  EHR-0412324, ESI-0353360, DUE 0926537 and DRL 0918223; the Virginia Department of Education Mathematics and Science Partnership Program (MSP); and the ExxonMobil Foundation. Any opinions, findings and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Virginia Department of Education Mathematics and Science Partnership Program (MSP), or the Exxon Mobile Foundation.

Mathematics Specialists are teacher leaders with strong preparation and background in mathematics content, instructional strategies, and school leadership.  Based in elementary and middle schools, mathematics specialists are excellent teachers who are released from full time classroom responsibilities so that they can support the professional growth of their colleagues, promoting enhanced mathematics instruction and student learning throughout their schools.    They are responsible for strengthening  classroom teachers’ understanding of mathematics content, and helping teachers develop more effective mathematics teaching practices that allow all students to reach high standards as well as sharing research addressing how  students learn mathematics.

The overarching purpose for Mathematics Specialists is to increase the mathematics achievement of all the students in their schools.  To do so, they

  • Collaborate with individual teachers through co-planning, co-teaching, and coaching;

  • Assist administrative and instructional staff in interpreting data and designing approaches to improve student achievement and instruction;

  • Ensure that the school curriculum is aligned with state and national standards and their school division’s mathematics curriculum;

  • Promote teachers’ delivery and understanding of the school curriculum through collaborative long-range and short-range planning;

  • Facilitate teachers’ use of  successful,  research-based instructional strategies, including differentiated instruction for diverse learners such as those with limited English proficiency or disabilities;

  • Work with parent/guardians and community leaders to foster continuing home/school/community partnerships focused on students’ learning of mathematics; and

  • Collaborate with administrators to provide leadership and vision for a school-wide mathematics program.


Six Virginia universities offer VMSC Statewide Masters Programs to prepare K-8 Mathematics Speciaists. For more information, access the "Programs to Prepare K-8 Mathematics Specialists" button on the Statewide Masters Programs website at the following link: Statewide Masters Programs

Project Updates for Mathematics Specialists (Last updated: 12/9/2012)

■ VA House Joint Resolution NO. 236 commending Virginia school boards that employ elementary and middle school mathematics specialists was approved on February 2, 2012. more ...

■ The VMSC released papers describing Research on the Impact of Mathematics Specialists. more ...

Virginia Commonwealth University , in collaboration with the Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition, has received a grant of $4,947,929 from the National Science Foundation to develop a program to prepare teachers as Mathematics Specialists in middle schools and to conduct treatment/control research on the impact of Mathematics Specialists on teacher beliefs and student learning.  The program being developed is being informed by the report of the VMSC Middle School Mathematics Specialist Taskforce. University partners in this MSP Institute include the University of Virginia and Norfolk State University . Participating school systems include: Arlington County Public Schools, Buena Vista City Schools, Caroline County Public Schools, Dickenson County Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools, Hanover County Public Schools, Henrico County Public Schools, Lancaster County Public Schools, Lee County Public Schools, Middlesex County Public Schools, New Kent County Public Schools, Norfolk Public Schools, Portsmouth Public Schools, Richmond City Public Schools, Scott County Public Schools, Washington County Public Schools, Westmoreland County Public Schools and Wise County Public Schools. more ...

Virginia Commonwealth University , in collaboration with the Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition, has received a grant of $4,713,685 from the National Science Foundation to develop a program to prepare teachers in K-6 rural schools to serve as Mathematics Specialists and to conduct treatment/control research on the impact of Mathematics Specialists on teacher beliefs and student learning.  University partners include the University of Maryland , the University of Virginia , Norfolk State University and Longwood University . Participating school systems include: Buena Vista City Schools , Charlotte County Schools , Dickenson County Schools , Halifax County Public Schools , Lee County Public Schools , Middlesex County Public Schools , New Kent County Public Schools , Norton City Schools , Roanoke City Public Schools , Scott County Public Schools , Washington County Public Schools, Westmoreland County Public Schools and Wise County Public Schools . more ...

■ The Mathematics Specialists who participated in the National Science Foundation supported research projects studying the impact of Mathematics Specialists were honored at a Recognition/Appreciation Luncheon on October 21, 2009. more ...

■ The VMSC Middle School Mathematics Specialist Task Force released its Report on Middle School Mathematics Specialists in April 2009. more ...

The Virginia Council for Mathematics Supervisors has honored four professors for their contributions to mathematics education in the state. Reuben Farley & William Haver of Virginia Commonwealth University, Phillip McNeil of Norfolk State University, and Loren Pitt of the University of Virginia received the leadership in Mathematics Education in Virginia Award. The professors collaborated on multiple statewide teacher professional development projects aimed at strengthening mathematics teaching and learning in Virginia.

An article describing the work of a Mathematics Specialist in an elementary school in Norfolk, Virginia was recently published in the Virginian Pilot on October 13, 2008. The article is titled "On SOLs, a Norfolk school logs near-perfect pass rates." more...

■ Dr. William Haver of Virginia Commonwealth University provided testimony on "The Impact of Mathematics Specialists in Virginia" before the Committee on Labor & Education of the United States House of Representatives on May 21, 2008 . more...

Virginia Commonwealth University and the MathScience Innovation Center will form a new cohort of teachers in the Masters of Interdisciplinary Studies program leading to endorsement as a Mathematics Specialist. The new cohort will begin in Spring 2009. more...

An article describing the work of Mathematics Specialists in Stafford, Virginia was recently published in the Free-Lance Star on January 22, 2008. The article is titled "Teaching Math That Counts to Children" more...

An article describing the work of Mathematics Specialists and changes in elementary mathematics education was recently published in the Washington Post on December 26, 2007. The article is titled "Elementary Math Grows Exponentially Tougher: Students, Teachers Tackle Algebra." more...

An article describing the work of Mathematics Specialists in Ablemarle, Virginia was recently published in the Daily Progress on November 16, 2007. The article is titled "Math Specialists help out schools: Albemarle using positions to bolster scores." more...

■ The Virginia Department of Education licensure endorsement for Mathematics Specialists for elementary and middle education were approved by the Governor in September and are now in effect. To view the specific regulations and "Approved Programs" process, click the link. more...

A special strand of sessions on Mathematics Specialists / Coaches was offered as part of the NCTM meeting held in Richmond, Virginia on October 11-12, 2007. more...

An article describing the work of Mathematics Specialists in Spotsylvania, Virginia was recently published in the Free-Lance Star on April 28, 2007. The article is titled "New Formula helps students learn math." more...

Virginia Commonwealth University, Norfolk State University, and the University of Virginia in conjunction with the Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition, and five school district core partners offer an NSF Institute to prepare K-5 middle school Mathematics Specialists. Two cohorts of 25 teachers each earn Masters Degrees in mathematics content and educational leadership, which encompass the proposed requirements specified for licensure as a Mathematics Specialist by the Virginia Department of Education. To view the Photo Galleries for the NSF-MSP Summer Institutes 2005 & 2006, click the link. more...

The Coalition regularly honors schools and educational organizations throughout the Commonwealth for effective strategies in enhancing math and/or science education through its "Programs that Work" award. On March 30, 2006, the Coalition formally recognized seven Mathematics Specialists and their respective school systems. more...

In spring 2006, both houses of the Virginia Legislature passed a resolution commending Virginia school boards that employ mathematics specialists in order to increase student achievement by increasing the quality of mathematics instruction. The resolution, HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 258, was introduced by Speaker of the House of Delegates William Howell. more...

The Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition appointed a Task Force chaired by Vickie Inge, Stafford County Public School Mathematics and Science Supervisor, to prepare a report detailing the need for K-8 Mathematics Specialists and the preparation and experience needed by Mathematics Specialists. more...

With support from the National Science Foundation, a Forum for Math Specialists and Their Principals was conducted at Virginia Commonwealth University on February 10, 2005 to help school principals prepare to make full use of Mathematics Specialists in their schools. During the Forum, reflections were shared by principals, teachers and Mathematics Specialists from schools with Mathematics Specialists. more...

Both houses of the Virginia Legislator have passed a resolution requesting the Virginia Board of Education to include the Mathematics Specialist endorsement in the Licensure Regulations for School Personnel. more...

On December 2, 2004, the Richmond Times Dispatch printed the article A math specialist's formula / For success Solutions aren't always by the numbers in which Theresa Donnelly, a Math Specialist at Gandy Elementary School in Hanover, said she "wants students to think mathematically rather than follow a procedure to solve a problem." more...

In the October 29 article in Fredericksburg's Free Lance-Star the Executive Director of Instruction in Stafford County, Peter Vernimb, said hiring math specialists at those schools made the difference. more...

The Virginia School Board has requested that criteria be developed for a license for K-8 Mathematics Specialists.  The Advisory Board on Teacher Education and Licensures (ABTEL) is currently considering its recommendations concerning the license. more...

The Virginia Department of Education awarded the University of Virginia and the Mathematics and Science Coalition a grant of $750,000 from Virginia’s portion of the No Child Left Behind program to develop and offer new courses for future mathematics specialists. more...

The National Science Foundation awarded Virginia Commonwealth University and the Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition a grant of $4,444,898 from 6/04-5/09 to conduct a comprehensive research program on the impact of Mathematics Specialists on student learning and to offer courses for Mathematics Specialists at Norfolk State University, University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University over the five year period of the grant. more...

Through its Mathematics and Science Partnership Program the National Science Foundation awarded Virginia Commonwealth University and the Mathematics and Science Coalition a grant of $3,726,915 from 8/04-7/09. more...

Virginia Commonwealth University has initiated a new track that prepares Mathematics Specialists within its Masters in Interdisciplinary Studies (MIS) program. more...

Mayor L. Douglas Wilder plans to use savings from budget cuts to hire more math specialists. more...