During the 2016-2017 school year, more than 2,000 students in Washington Elementary School District (WESD) will benefit from the hard work and dedication of 39 teachers participating in a $347,000 federally funded Math Study Partnership (MSP) research grant. The program funds collaborative partnerships between science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) departments at institutions of higher education and high-need school districts.
The first three weeks of the MSP program are focused on Intel Math, an 80-hour professional development course in mathematics content for K-8 teachers. Intel Math focuses on a problem-solving approach to integer arithmetic, decimals, place values, rational numbers, linear equations and functions. Multiple representations of solutions are examined with each problem.
“Many teachers know how to solve these problems one way, but what we really want is for them to be able to support students in solving problems multiple ways,” said Aubrey Neihaus, Intel Math instructor and member of the University of Arizona Mathematics Department. “Programs like this that are intensive, sustained and content-focused are research-based and proven to be the best way to help teachers.”
In addition to the in-person sessions, teacher teams meet in small group learning communities as part of the 128 hours of coursework.
“The science of math instruction is fairly new,” said Ben Metcalf, WESD math program coach and project director for the MSP Federal Research Grant. “Our state standards have shifted to put a greater focus on more critical thinking, deeper conceptual understanding and the ability to apply what you know. Teachers’ flexibility in problem solving and depth of content knowledge impacts their ability to facilitate experiences that cultivate this kind of learning.”
Pedagogy is another piece of the course, where classroom transfer is addressed through analyzing student work and instructor modeling.
“We hope participants come away with more than content knowledge,” added Metcalf. “We hope they’re gaining a kind of actionable wisdom that develops as they engage as learners and reflective practitioners. This growth improves instructional choices and student learning.”
“The program is exciting and is building confidence that I know will reflect in my teaching,” said Jeanette Dube, fifth grade teacher at Shaw Butte Elementary.
MSP sessions will conclude in April 2017.