Primary mathematics specialisations in initial teacher education

This report was originally published 09 August 2021.

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A challenge in primary teaching degrees is to improve the quality of mathematics instruction. Primary mathematics specialisations have been identified as a potential solution to address concerns about inadequate primary teacher preparation in mathematics.

The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) has established criteria and processes to assess and approve applications from ITE providers who wish to offer these specialisations in their ITE degrees. Students in the relevant ITE degrees can undertake a mathematics specialisation if their ITE provider offers it. This generally involves students taking on additional units of study to develop a range of beginning teachers’ skills.

In this report, the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE) examines whether primary mathematics specialisations have been implemented effectively in ITE settings in NSW.


  • The implementation of specialisations varied across universities/ITE providers
  • awareness of specialisations among university students was relatively low
  • the specialisation principally attracted students with high levels of interest and ability in mathematics
  • students undertaking specialisations reported their degrees to be more coherent and focused on content knowledge, syllabus areas, and pedagogical approaches than comparable non-specialised students
  • students undertaking specialisations reported a greater level of self-efficacy in applying their mathematics knowledge to teaching than comparable non-specialised students
  • students undertaking specialisations sought a greater focus on mathematics pedagogy and more practical experience opportunities to apply their specialist knowledge
  • students who graduated from ITE programs with a specialisation reported little utilisation of their specialist knowledge within their school appointments.


  • ITE providers should consider ways to communicate the availability of their specialisations among students more effectively
  • ITE providers and the department should aim to provide more practical learning opportunities to students undertaking specialisations
  • the department should consider ways of further supporting post-study specialised graduates to utilise their specialist knowledge.
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