Certification Requirements to Become a Math Teacher in Illinois

The State Board of Education is responsible for issuing teaching licenses in Illinois. In order to meet the math teacher certification requirements in Illinois you must complete the following steps:

Complete a Bachelor’s Degree and Educator Prep Program in Math
Make it Through the Illinois Licensure Testing System (ILTS) Process
Apply for an Illinois License to Teach Math
Maintain and Renew Your Illinois License to Teach Math

Illinois is the nation’s leader when it comes to SAT math scores. Thanks in large part to the dedicated work of skilled math teachers, the state ranked ahead of all others in terms of average SAT math scores in 2013. In fact, Illinois lead the state that came in second place by seven points.

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The quality of the math teachers in Illinois is a result of the high bar the state sets for licensing requirements, the high quality teacher preparation programs available in the state, and the emphasis that’s placed on continued development through professional education and activities.



Step 1. Complete a Bachelor’s Degree and Educator Prep Program in Math

Prospective math teachers can become qualified for Illinois teacher certification by completing a bachelor’s degree in math combined with an approved teacher education program. There are 50 bachelor’s degree programs in math available at colleges and universities throughout Illinois that include an approved teacher education program.

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In addition to advanced math courses, you will experience an immersive pedagogical component as part of your teacher education program. This component focuses on how to effectively teach math in the classroom, and will include classes that provide instruction on:

  • Special education methods
  • Methods of mathematical reading and writing
  • Strategies for teaching mathematical concepts
  • Lesson planning and development in mathematics
  • Pedagogical theory and history
  • Fundamentals of education

The teacher education program will culminate with a student teaching segment where you will put your theory into practice. Taking what you know about mathematics and pedagogy, student teaching will involve being placed in a middle school or high school classroom where you will both observe and instruct under the close supervision of an experienced math teacher.

Entering an educator preparation program requires the completion of the TAP, ACT, or SAT as detailed in Step 2. This step also provides information on the mathematics test you will need to pass before you start your student teaching assignment.

Already Have a Degree – If you already have a bachelor’s degree in math but have not completed an approved teacher education program you will have two options:

  • Complete an approved educator program in math as post-baccalaureate work or as part of a master’s degree
  • Complete an alternative certification program that replaces the traditional student teaching with on-the-job mentored training

Licensed in Another State – If you completed a math teacher education program or are currently a licensed math teacher in a different state, you are generally eligible for an Illinois teaching license provided your home state’s process for becoming licensed is similar to that of Illinois’.



Step 2. Make it Through the Illinois Licensure Testing System (ILTS) Process

An important step toward becoming a math teacher in Illinois is the ILTS. You will need to pass two tests within this program:

  • Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP)
  • Mathematics Exam

Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP)

The Test of Academic Proficiency ensures that you possess the basic skills needed required of all teachers. The TAP exam consists of four sub-tests, which you can register to take all at once or separately. Passing this test is required to gain entry into an educator preparation program. TAP questions will specifically pertain to:

    • Reading Comprehension
      • Meaning of words and phrases in context
      • Main and supporting ideas
      • Interpretation and inference
      • Relationships among ideas
      • Application of critical thinking


    • Language arts
      • Grammar and word usage
      • Conventions


    • Writing
      • Audience
      • Organization and development
      • Editing and revision
      • Composition creation


  • Mathematics
    • Integers, decimals, and fractions
    • Mathematical reasoning and analysis
    • Algebra and geometry
    • Data and statistical analysis

You can qualify for an exemption to the TAP exam by achieving minimum scores on any of these exams:

  • ACT plus writing composite score of 22
  • SAT critical reading and mathematics composite score of 1030

Mathematics Exam

The mathematics exam is specifically designed to evaluate your skills pertaining to the field of mathematics, ensuring that you would be a qualified math teacher. This must be passed before you begin the student teaching segment of your educator preparation program. The mathematics exam is divided into five subject areas:

  • Applications and processes
    • Application of reasoning techniques to concepts and procedures
    • Integration of appropriate technology
    • Mathematical communication


  • Measurement and number sense
    • Number theory
    • Real and complex numbers in relation to algorithms
    • Computing and measuring multi-dimensional objects


  • Symbols, models, functions, and algebraic patterns
    • Relationship of patterns and variables
    • Linear relations and functions
    • Quadratic relations and functions


  • Geometry
    • Properties and relationships of points, lines, and planes
    • Properties of multi-dimensional objects
    • Geometric methods with real-world applications


  • Statistics and probability
    • Theory of probability
    • Construction of data spreads
    • Data interpretation



Step 3. Apply for an Illinois License to Teach Math

After you complete your testing requirements and graduate from your educator preparation program, the program will notify the Illinois State Board of Education that you have earned what is known as Entitlement. This means that you meet the requirements for math teacher jobs in Illinois and are eligible to apply for a teaching license.

At this point, if you have not done so already, you will need to create an account on the Educator Licensure Information System (ELIS). Once you have earned Entitlement you will be eligible to complete an online application for licensure using your ELIS account. The license you are applying for is known as the Professional Educator License.

The processing time to approve an application for licensure takes approximately 24 weeks. You can check the status of your application via your ELIS account. Once you become licensed you will be eligible to apply for math teaching positions across Illinois. The State Board of Education maintains an employment webpage with helpful job resources.



Step 4. Maintain and Renew Your Illinois License to Teach Math

Your Professional Educator License is valid for five years, and during this time you will need to take the necessary steps to ensure you attain at least 120 hours of professional development education and training. Professional development must be offered by an approved provider, and will advance your knowledge and skills in the fields of both mathematics and education. Advancing your education to a master’s degree can be counted towards professional development.

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Renewing your license and recording your professional development activities are done using your ELIS account.

Professional Organizations

Across the state of Illinois there are professional organizations that serve the field of mathematics and teaching in a variety of ways. By affiliating yourself with one of these organizations, you can find information about employment opportunities, professional development activities, and the latest advancements in the fields of teaching and mathematics:

    • Promotion of quality undergraduate math teacher programs
    • Cooperation with the State Board of Education to enhance the clinical and pedagogical preparations for math teachers
    • Promotion of quality professional development activities
    • Facilitation of communication among math teachers of all levels


    • Encouragement of a general societal interest in all aspects of mathematics and math education
    • Enhancement of the teaching and learning of mathematics and an inter-disciplinary integration of math
    • Promotion of research into the most effective pedagogical methods of teaching math as a subject
    • Promotion of communication between math professionals


  • Illinois Math and Science Academy IMSA – an academy created by the State of Illinois, IMSA’s strives to create the state’s and country’s future leaders in mathematics, science, technology, and engineering. Math teachers may participate in teaching at this academy or they may become involved in research. Most of the students who attend the academy are in grades 10-12 and from across the country and world.

As you become more experienced you can consider expanding your career to include opportunities such as guest teaching, lecturing, publishing academic work, and participating in research projects. These professional organizations also provide valuable resources when it comes to this type of career development.

National Board Certification

National Board Certification is conferred by the non-profit nationwide organization National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). To become NBPTS-certified, you will need to compile a portfolio of evidence that demonstrates your teaching effectiveness and professional development. As part of the certification process you will submit this portfolio to the NBPTS for review, and you will also need to complete a series of testing assessments. Gaining NBPTS certification counts as a professional development activity, and there are two types of certifications available to you depending on which grade levels you teach:

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