The Introductory Subject Matter Authorization (ISMA) in Mathematics Overview
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

What is the ISMA in Math and what does it allow you to do?
The ISMA in Math authorizes the holder to teach Mathematics content typically included in curriculum guidelines and textbooks approved for study in grades 9 and below. This allows an employer to assign a teacher with an Introductory Subject Matter Authorization in Mathematics to teach a class in which the curriculum is for grades 9 and below, but the students in the class may be in grades K-12 (California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) leaflet CL-852).  Often holders of the ISMA in Mathematics teach middle school Mathematics.

Is the ISMA in Mathematics No Child Left Behind Compliant (NCLB)?
Yes. A holder of the ISMA in Mathematics is considered “Highly Qualified” under NCLB legislation in the state of California.

Who can get the ISMA in Mathematics?
Introductory Subject Matter Authorizations can be added to single subject and multiple subject teaching credentials. For instance a Liberal Studies major, who graduates, can add the ISMA in Mathematics to his or her multiple subject credential application, if the recommended coursework has been completed. Likewise a person holding a single subject credential in a subject other than Mathematics (for example Science or English) can add an ISMA in Mathematics to their single subject credential.

The recommended coursework can be completed at anytime (before or after graduation). Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to complete their coursework while working towards their degrees.  Credentialed teachers can apply for an ISMA in Mathematics at any time, once the recommended coursework has been completed. 

What Math courses should I take?
Please see the ISMA Math Course List document.

Are there other paths to becoming a middle school (or high school) math teacher?
Yes.  A person can earn a single subject credential in math or a single subject credential in Foundation-Level Mathematics. Cal Poly has an approved single subject credential program in Math, which requires a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics.  For this route students must major in Mathematics.

Cal Poly does not currently have an approved program for the single subject credential in Foundation-Level Mathematics.  Students can still earn this credential by passing CSET subtests I and II in Mathematics, in addition to fulfilling other requirements.  For full details, please visit the School of Education Student Information Center in Building 2 Room 120, and/or visit the CTC website ( 

What is the Supplementary Authorization and is it NCLB compliant?
The Supplementary Authorization requires 30 quarter units in Mathematics (15 upper division), instead of the required 48 quarter units for the ISMA in Mathematics.  The Supplementary Authorization in Mathematics I is sometimes mistaken for the ISMA in Mathematics.  They are, however, not at all the same.  The Supplementary Authorization predates NLCB legislation.  When NCLB legislation was passed in 2001, the definition of a “highly qualified” middle school math teacher (in California) was eventually defined to mean a person must hold either a single subject credential in Mathematics or an ISMA in Mathematics.  The supplementary authorization is not NCLB compliant for math teachers.  Thus as of today it is essentially useless for the purposes of secondary math teaching.

Do you have to complete the coursework before you graduate?
No.  As stated above, the ISMA in Mathematics can be added to a credential at the time a MS or SS credential is earned or later.  It is highly recommended that you complete your coursework while you are a student (working towards a bachelor’s degree or credential) and before beginning full-time employment as a teacher. 

Do I have to take the CSET Math Subject Tests to earn the ISMA in Mathematics?
No.  (A different set of CSET exams is still required for the Multiple Subject credential.)

Where can I get official documentation from the state of California?
More information from the state and official documents are available at the the School of Education Student Information Center or the CTC (  For your information the ISMA in Mathematics is also called a Subject Matter Authorization in Introductory Mathematics, by the state of California.

What should I do if I am not a Liberal Studies major and want to teach math?
Students not majoring in Liberal Studies considering teaching Mathematics should seek consultation from the Mathematics Department. Please see Professor Stan Yoshinobu, Mathematics Department, 25-315 (

Liberal Studies Office 53-211, 805-756-2935
CSM Advising Center 53-219, 805-756-2615        
School of Education, Daniel Parsons, 805-756-2126

Once you have completed all your coursework and are ready to file the paperwork with the CTC (, contact Daniel Parsons (805)756-2126, who is the credential analyst at Cal Poly

If you have questions about math courses please contact the Mathematics Department office, 25-208, (805-756-2206).