Grant to fund new thinking on mathematics in county schools

Posted on December 12, 2014

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University of North Carolina Greensboro Professor Dr. Holt Wilson (left) talks with local teachers who are part of a project to change how teachers and students think about math and use mathematics to solve complex problems.


DOBSON —A grant is being used by the Surry County Schools to “teach the teachers” in more effective teaching strategies as the district takes needed time to address what it considers more rigorous state standards and higher End of Grade (EOG) testing cut-off scores.

The fundamental purpose of the project is to change how teachers and students think about math and use mathematics to solve complex problems.

“Students are the ultimate benefactors of this project,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Jill Reinhardt. “Through implementation of the mathematical practices, formative assessment, and improved math content knowledge, student achievement will increase.”

The additional professional development is through a Z. Smith Reynolds math grant where selected K-12 teachers throughout the district joined with University of North Carolina Greensboro math professors to begin a two-year venture toward improving mathematical thinking. Thirty teachers are participating in the start of the project.

According to Executive Director of Elementary Education Jennifer Scott, Dr. Holt Wilson and Dr. Kerri Richardson are the instructors working with teachers. She said another goal is to expand capacity for teacher leadership in mathematics.

“With the new (mathematics) standards in the state we realized for one of the first times in years our teachers needed training in math standards, concepts and practices,” said Scott. “That was something we hadn’t a need for in the past. Our EOG scores in mathematics were in the 90 percentiles and teachers felt comfortable. We saw a need in all grade levels due to the changes.”

The $65,000 grant was authored by Reinhardt and Scott who were mentored by author and researcher Dr. Jeanne Joyner. Participating teachers will develop local professional development activities for other teachers, model lessons, and provide training on the common instructional guide. Their classrooms will be open for others to come observe math lessons that demonstrate mathematical practices and actionable formative assessment.

The grant pays for participants tuition, resources for substitute teachers for two days a week while the initial participants are in classes at UNCG and local teachers crafting teaching models which will be shared with their peers.

“One really exciting part of this is doctoral students working on their dissertations will be acting as coaches for teachers and working with teachers in their classrooms,” said Scott. “This is not something we’ve always done.” She pointed out the benefits for teachers and students to just talk about math is beneficial where problem solving is a fundamental means of developing mathematical knowledge at every level.

She said the approach also represents supporting students to get a correct answer and appreciate the different ways to arrive to solve a problem for the same result by connecting different concepts rather than just teaching math concepts in isolation.

David Broyles may be reached at 336-415-4739 or on Twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.

Reposted from the Mount Airy News
Photo credit: submitted photo, Surry County Schools

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