Trends in mathematics specialist literature: Analyzing research spanning four decades


For the past forty years, United States school districts have increasingly hired mathematics specialists to support the teaching and learning of mathematics. Despite the prevalence of this professional development structure, this is a relatively new research topic for the mathematics education field. In this paper, we report findings from an exploration of literature between 1981 and 2018 to examine the role of mathematics specialists (MSs). In particular, we examine: (a) MS positioning across research; (b) historical trends of school-based MS research; and (c) orientations of school-based MSs within research. Using the McGatha and Rigelman framework as an analytic lens, we found that beyond the positions identified in their framework (coach, intervention specialist, teacher), there were four additional MS positionings within the research (learner, other p-12 stakeholder, university stakeholder, unknown). Ultimately, we forward an expansion to the McGatha and Rigelman framework to include these new categories, as well as contextual descriptions and working definitions to support future research in more accurately and robustly capturing the ways in which MSs are investigated and reported on in research.


Childhood Education and Family Studies

Document Type





math/math education, professional development < teachers and teaching, teacher education < teachers and teaching, teachers and teaching

Publication Date


Journal Title

School Science and Mathematics