FIRSTMATH – The First Five Years of Mathematics Teaching


FIRSTMATH is a study that explores the levels and kinds of mathematical knowledge for teaching among novice teachers – from 0-5 years of experience – and how this knowledge is influenced by previous preparation, school context, and opportunities to learn on the job.  It also attends to understanding how this knowledge influences mathematics teaching practice and pupil learning.

More specifically, FIRSTMATH explores the connections between what teachers bring with them when they enter teaching and what is learned on the job as it concerns knowledge, beliefs, skills, and curricular content.  It also examines the degrees to which standards, accountability, and other similar mechanisms operate to regulate and the support that beginning teachers of mathematics receive during their first five years of teaching, and how this connects to teaching practice and pupil learning.

Research Questions:

  1. How do teachers with 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 years on the job compare on their knowledge of mathematics content, mathematics pedagogy, pedagogy, mathematics-related beliefs and on their views on enacted mathematics teaching practice?
  2. What are the differences in knowledge, beliefs and enacted teaching practice between teachers with different types of pre-service preparation, other induction related preparation, or no formal teacher preparation across the cross-sectional samples surveyed?
  3. How are these differences—in knowledge, beliefs and enacted teaching practice—related to, schools’ socio-economic context, policies, organization, curriculum, and on-the-job opportunities to learn; and to larger system-level policy mandates across the cross-sectional samples surveyed?


The results of this study will provide needed empirical evidence about the influence of school context and on-the-job opportunities to learn on mathematics teachers’ knowledge, and on the nature of the knowledge that is useful in and for mathematics teaching in diverse settings and school contexts. It speaks to contentious policy issues about the relative cost-effectiveness of induction vis-à-vis pre-service teacher education. Understanding these effects has potential economic impact for thousands of school districts or other agencies concerned with teacher recruitment and retention and with developing quality mentoring, induction, and professional development programs.