Certification Requirements to Become a Math Teacher in Pennsylvania

Use this step-by-step guide to learn how to become a math teacher in Pennsylvania:

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher in Math Education
Complete Pennsylvania’s Testing Requirements
Apply for a Pennsylvania Teaching Certificate
Upgrade Your Teaching Certificate

Pennsylvania’s math teachers deserve much of the credit for the fact that the state ranked among the top-ten in terms of ACT math scores in 2013.

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The Pennsylvania Board of Education (BOE) is responsible for establishing the requirements you will need to meet to become a math teacher in the state. While working to meet these requirements you will work directly with the Division of Certification Services’ Bureau of School Leadership and Teacher Quality.



Step 1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher in Math Education

To meet Pennsylvania’s minimum math teacher certification requirements you will need to hold at least a bachelor’s degree in the field of mathematics. Majoring in a math-related field means you will need to be able to pass courses such as the following with a 3.0 minimum grade point average:

  • Discrete mathematics
  • Calculus
  • Geometry
  • Algebra
  • Statistics and probability

As part of your education you will also need to complete one of Pennsylvania’s approved teacher education programs in math. These programs are traditionally included as part of state BOE-approved BS or BA degree program, and will focus on developing your mathematics teaching skills through such courses as:

  • Pedagogy and education
  • History and development of educational theory
  • Teaching the subject of mathematics via student questions
  • Teaching diverse students
  • Teaching and recognizing students with disabilities
  • Student teaching

The final portion of your teacher education program will be an immersive student teaching assignment that will involve being placed in a classroom with an experienced mentor teacher.

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Candidates Who Already Have a Degree

If you have not completed a teacher education program but you already have a bachelor’s degree in the field of mathematics you still have two ways to become eligible for a teaching certificate:

  • Complete a teacher intern certification program in math – these are programs offered at colleges and universities across Pennsylvania. They will help you to fill in the gaps of your pedagogical knowledge and subsequently jump right in to teaching math in a classroom, allowing you to trade the completion of a student teaching program for mentored on-the-job training.


  • Complete an American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) program – as part of this program you will need to obtain an ABCTE Passport to Teaching by passing this organization’s tests in pedagogy and mathematics. Once you have been approved for a Pennsylvania certificate you will be able to complete a period of mentoring as you begin teaching in the classroom. Note that this option is only open to candidates interested in teaching math at the secondary level, grades 7-12.

Out-of-State Applicants

If you are already a certified teacher in a different state or you completed your education in a state other than Pennsylvania, you will be eligible for Pennsylvania teaching certification if you fall into one of these categories:

  • You have been a certified teacher in your home state for at least two years
  • You completed your teacher education program in a different state which included either a student teaching segment or one year of teaching experience, and your state is a signatory to the National Association Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDEC) Interstate Agreement
  • You have National Board Certification – this is obtained through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) and is offered in two versions to experienced math teachers:



Step 2. Complete Pennsylvania’s Testing Requirements

Pennsylvania requires all its prospective math teachers to pass a series of tests in order to become eligible for certification:

  • Pre-service Academic Performance Assessment (PAPA)
  • Core Assessment Test
  • Mathematics Test

Pre-service Academic Performance Assessment (PAPA)

The PAPA exam is administered by Pearson Education and designed to measure your basic skills in three key subject areas, which have been determined as essential for all teachers in Pennsylvania. The exam is divided into three parts that you can take together or separately:

  • Reading – 45 minutes to complete 36 multiple-choice questions
  • Mathematics – 75 minutes to complete 36 multiple-choice questions
  • Writing – 75 minutes to complete 36 multiple-choice questions, 2 sentence correction segments, and 1 constructed-response assignment

If you have achieved at least the indicated scores on any of the following exams you can be exempt from taking the PAPA:

  • SAT – 1550 with at least 500 on the individual reading, writing, and mathematics sections
  • ACT plus writing – composite score of 23, including at least a 22 in English-writing and a 21 in math

Core Assessment Test

You only need to take this exam if you plan on teaching math in grades 4-8. The Core Assessment Test is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and evaluates you on three essential areas of competencies. You will have 210 minutes to complete 210 questions, spread evenly among the subjects of:

  • Pedagogy
  • Social studies and English language arts
  • Mathematics and science

Mathematics Test

Math teachers in Pennsylvania can become certified to teach either grades 4-8 or grades 7-12. One of the ways of differentiating between these two types of math teacher is through testing. The math test you will be required to pass covers your specific knowledge in the field of mathematics, so you should register for the test that corresponds to the grade levels you will be teaching:

    • 90 minutes to complete 60 questions covering two main topics:
        • Algebra and arithmetic – 48 questions
          • Operations and numbers
          •  Algebra
          • Functions and graphs


      • Data and geometry – 22 questions
        • Measurement and geometry
        • Statistics, probability, and discrete mathematics


    • 150 minutes to complete 60 questions taken from two subject categories:
      • Algebra, functions, calculus, quantities and numbers – 68%
      • Geometry, probability, statistics, and discrete mathematics – 32%



Step 3. Apply for a Pennsylvania Teaching Certificate

Once you have made it to this step you will have met the requirements to apply for a Pennsylvania teaching certificate. You can submit your application via the Teacher Information Management System (TIMS). Your test scores will have been automatically sent to the Department of Education, however as part of your online application you will need to provide:

  • Proof of completion of a degree and approved teacher education program
  • Attestation of a good and moral character
  • Proof of no unreported criminal convictions as demonstrated through a background investigation
  • Explanation of any previous convictions

After you have made an application you can check its progress and status through your TIMS account. If your application is approved you will earn a Level I Teaching Certificate.

The Department of Education maintains a webpage with links to many math teacher employment opportunities that you may find helpful in your search for math teacher jobs across Pennsylvania.



Step 4. Upgrade Your Teaching Certificate

Many math teachers in Pennsylvania choose to earn a master’s degree in the field of mathematics or education, such as an M.A.T., M.Ed. or MATL. This is because upgrading your Level I teaching certification requires the completion of post-bachelor’s college credits.

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Your Level I Certificate is valid for six years, and you will need to upgrade this to a Level II Certificate before it expires as it cannot be renewed. You can accomplish this as soon as you have been teaching for three years with a satisfactory service record. Additionally during this time you must also have earned at least 24 post-baccalaureate college credits. Finally you must complete a Department of Education Induction Program.

The induction program is designed to help you transition into your new career as a math teacher while also providing you with helpful resources regarding how you can maximize your teaching effectiveness. Typically this will last one year, but if you need to spend extra time in an induction program it can be extended. You will prepare your induction program in collaboration with:

  • Educational specialists
  • Teachers
  • Administrative representatives

Your induction program will include:

  • Activities that promote an inclusive setting for diverse students, such as English Language Learners (ELL)
  • Goals and evaluations aimed at promoting standards of achievement in six primary areas that have been identified to have the most significant impact on student achievement:
    • Standards – you will learn about Pennsylvania’s core standards
    • Assessments – strategies and strengths of using different types of math assessments for your students
    • Curriculum framework – how you can shape your lesson plans to coincide with the state’s core standards
    • Instruction – your classroom environment, professional responsibilities, instruction, and preparation
    • Materials and resources – strategies to integrate recent advances in the fields of pedagogy and mathematics
    • Safe and supportive schools – methods to develop and maintain a safe and supportive environment in the math classroom

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