SESAME Program

The SESAME Program at the University of Chicago offers a variety of mathematics and science content courses that place a strong emphasis on content and the conceptual foundations of the subject, along with strategies and pedagogical techniques for bringing this content to the classroom. Our courses follow the ISBE math and science learning standards. Our goal is to provide knowledgeable teachers who can deliver the subject matter to middle grade students in a highly effective way. Currently, our courses are intended for teachers who are seeking a Subsequent Middle Grade Endorsement.

We are offering one course in the Spring Quarter, MATH 52300 Algebra III for Elementary Schools, in a hybrid format, on Wednesdays from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. for 10 weeks.  This course is a part of the Algebra Initiative project through the Chicago Public Schools.  We look forward to offering more courses toward endorsements in math and in science, and we hope to be able to do so again in the near future.  Please let us know if there are particular courses that would be of interest.

History of the Program

In 1992, former Professor Paul J. Sally, Jr. of the University of Chicago decided to embark on a project of serious staff development for fifth through eighth grade teachers in the Chicago Public Schools. He created the SESAME (Seminars for Endorsement of Science and Mathematics Educators) Program of mathematics courses, which is designed for both beginning and experienced teachers, for generalists as well as specialists. A section was added in 2001 for science. Since then, teachers who have enrolled in SESAME returned to their classrooms with ideas and materials, which enhanced the effectiveness of their teaching.

The SESAME Program in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Chicago has offered a full range of courses leading to Illinois State Endorsements for the teaching of mathematics and science in the middle grades. All SESAME courses place a strong importance on content and the conceptual foundations of the subject along with strategies and pedagogical techniques for bringing this content to the classroom. Teachers continually work together in small groups to provide appropriate interaction with their peers. The program emphasizes, to a great extent, inquiry-based learning or the discovery method so that the teachers learn how best to employ this technique in their classrooms.

Teachers who participate in the SESAME Program:

  1. Increase their capacity to deliver quality mathematics and science instruction to middle school students
  2. Develop a deep understanding of the conceptual foundations of mathematics and science
  3. Develop a sense of the mathematics that evolves from the ideas presented in middle school classrooms
  4. Generate activities that students can us to explore mathematical and scientific ideas
  5. Understand concepts in mathematics and science in a manner that will enable them to deliver any mathematics or science curriculum

To date, approximately 1,200 teachers from more than 150 Chicago Public Schools have enrolled in SESAME courses. A significant number of these teachers have received state endorsement in the teaching of mathematics and science.

The ultimate goal is to have every teacher in the Chicagoland area who teaches mathematics or science in the middle grades to have the appropriate endorsement from the State of Illinois. Perhaps even more important is the goal to ensure that all students have knowledgeable teachers who can deliver middle grade subject matter in a highly effective way.


The requirements for a Middle Grades endorsement depend on what type of PEL an educator currently holds. You can find the list of approved PELs on ISBE’s webpage: If you have the required PEL, then you may participate in the SESAME Program.

In order to obtain an ISBE Middle Grade Subsequent Endorsement in Mathematics or Science through Sesame, you will need 21 semester hours in math or science content and 3 semester hours in the methods of teaching math or science. Our courses are considered graduate-level (500-level), so you know you are receiving quality and stimulating instruction. Our program essentially offers à la carte courses, so you only enroll in as many courses as you need. If you decided to take all of your math or science courses through SESAME, then you will need around eight courses, which is roughly a two-year commitment. Once completed, you must pass an online math or science test given by ISBE before you can submit your transcripts for evaluation and obtain the endorsement.

The SESAME Program runs on a quarter system. The academic year sessions (Autumn, Winter, and Spring) meet on Wednesday evenings from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The participation fee for each course is as follows:

  • MATH 50900 Algebra I for Elementary Schools (Autumn): $600
  • MATH 52200 Algebra II Advanced Algebra (Winter): $1,000
  • MATH 52300 Algebra III for Elementary Schools (Spring): $1,000

The payment is due three weeks after a course begins, and we also offer payment arrangements.

Please click here for the registration form for the Spring quarter and submit the completed form to  

Please note: The SESAME Program is not a degree-seeking program, and this credit does not count towards a Masters Degree at the University of Chicago.