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Megan Burton knows that demand for certified elementary teachers is high, and with the passing of the Alabama Numeracy Act and the addition of instructional math coaches in every elementary school in the state, it’s about to get even higher.

“Alabama’s Numeracy Act can offer support for positive change in K-5 education in Alabama,” she said. “Other states are watching this innovative act that calls for high-quality professional development, research-based practices and mathematics coaches in every school.”


Burton, a professor of elementary math education in Auburn’s College of Education, has good reason to be optimistic. She is currently serving on the state’s Numeracy Act task force, a group that is working to offer guidance in the enactment of the law through evaluation and selection of an intervention curriculum, assessments for students and professional development for teachers.

 “Individual holistic assessments on reading are long-standing, and we’ve been researching that for many years,” she said. “We haven’t done as well with mathematics.”

The Alabama Numeracy Act was passed in 2022 and is gradually being implemented in schools across the state. The law aims to improve the math skills of students in kindergarten through fifth grade with the help of individual holistic assessment of learners to inform interventions, summer camps for struggling students and a new intervention curriculum.

One thing Burton has learned as a member of the task force is that Auburn is already preparing teachers in a way that meets the demands of the Numeracy Act.

“When a proposed change comes up at these meetings, I can always say that Auburn already does it, no matter what it is,” Burton said. “That reflects why our academic program is recognized by teachers and administrators throughout Alabama and the country as one that prepares effective elementary teachers for the classrooms, not just for today but also for the future.”

So, how is Auburn preparing math teachers to enter this challenging but rewarding field? Off the top of her head, Burton can list almost a half-dozen ways the College of Education is ahead of the game for elementary teachers of mathematics.

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Meeting students where they are

Burton says that an important part of the Numeracy Act is assessing learners to build on their strengths. While the goal is to meet needs so intervention isn’t necessary, students who are receiving interventions will now be assessed so teachers can understand where they are academically and maximize their growth. This concept is something Auburn’s undergraduate program already teaches.

“That’s one of our biggest strengths,” she said. “We focus on where students are academically and build from there, rather than thinking everybody comes to the classroom with the same abilities.”

Education majors are in local schools as early as their first year in college, and by junior year, they are working one-on-one with students in the classroom and teaching lessons. 

“By the time they get to their internship, they have learned the nuances of what different grades need, the trajectories of how kids learn and the complex social and emotional elements that go into classroom teaching,” Burton said.

The college’s graduate program focuses on how to advocate for students who might be struggling, mentor and support new teachers and go beyond the classroom to become a teacher-leader.

Access to state-wide training

Auburn is one of the host sites for the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI). A program of the Alabama Department of Education, AMST's mission is to support educators and students teaching in STEM areas.

The Numeracy Act aims to have an instructional math coach in every elementary school in the state by 2027, and each coach is required to complete training with AMSTI. Auburn students have access to AMSTI training before they even start their careers.

"Our elementary education undergraduate program teaches the same principles of education that AMSTI does with their pre-service teachers, and our curriculums are in alignment," Burton said. Also, our early childhood education majors go to the AMSTI site for training by an AMSTI specialist."

Collaboration with others

Because Auburn’s program trains teachers in early intervention, Burton has been working with the College of Education’s Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation and Counseling for years. She and faculty member Margaret Flores, a leader in mathematics for students with special needs, often have their students work together on projects.

“A lot of what is in the Numeracy Act is about intervention and supporting students who might be struggling in specific areas of mathematics,” Burton said. “These are things we have been talking about in our classes for years. Margaret and I also have published articles about intervention together, as well as a book that supports classroom teachers in meeting these needs.”

Auburn students have plenty of opportunities to work in early childhood and elementary STEM camps during the summers. They may teach math, science or integrated robotics, sometimes in collaboration with Auburn’s College of Sciences and Mathematics.

“Our pre-service teachers are seeing students in a lot of different settings,” Burton said. “In a traditional program, you might only see students in a regular classroom. Seeing them in different settings highlights the complexities of learners and helps our teacher candidates consider the holistic needs of learners.”

Auburn alumna leads the way

One reason the Numeracy Act requirements align with Auburn’s curriculum may be that they’ve been developed in part by a College of Education alumna. Karen Anderson graduated in 2012 with a doctorate in Administration of Supervision and Curriculum. As the director of the Office of Mathematics Improvement at the Alabama Department of Education, Anderson’s training and experience make her the right person to lead the implementation of the Numeracy Act.

“Karen Anderson is wonderful,” Burton said. “She understands what teachers are going through, and she is making sure there is space for the elementary teachers and coaches to have a voice in what’s happening.”

You can always come home

With the current teacher shortage, Auburn students are easily landing jobs and entering the classroom quickly. Many have secured teaching positions before their internships are finished, and some schools have tried to hire them full-time while they are still interns. But even after they’ve graduated, alumni know they can still depend on the faculty in the College of Education.

“I have heard over and over that Auburn doesn’t just end when you get that degree,” Burton said. “The faculty are still available to help and provide resources, and I tell my students who are teaching to reach out to me when they want to work through an issue, brainstorm ideas or just need help teaching math. We are better together, and I love to meet with former students to help them continue to grow for the benefit of elementary learners.”