MU has been awarded a $10 million grant to find ways to improve math education across the country. The grant from the National Science Foundation will run over five years and will be used to fund a new Center for the Study of Mathematics Curriculum.
The center, scheduled to start operating in January at Townsend Hall, will have three goals, said Barbara Reys, professor of mathematics education and director of the center:
To increase the number of doctoral students in mathematics education.
To study and evaluate textbooks and their effects on student learning.
To help with professional development of teachers.
“This award will recognize MU and its partners as the national leaders in the study of K-12 mathematics curriculum,” Jim Coleman, vice provost of research at MU, said in a press release Tuesday.
Columbia Public Schools will be one of four school districts that will serve as a partner site. The program will use schools to conduct research on textbooks, test development strategies and host doctoral students and other interns who are gathering research data or learning from practicing teachers, Reys said.
The center, together with the district, will plan workshops and conferences to help K-12 teachers with the choice and use of good curriculum materials, Reys said.
“Our ultimate goal is to increase opportunities for students in elementary, middle and high school to learn important mathematics and to learn it well,” she said.
Chip Sharp, district math coordinator for grades six through 12, said the program is a good mechanism for looking at students and the way they learn math. District teachers can benefit from this program because they can interact with curriculum developers and colleagues, gaining knowledge on how other districts are handling the teaching of math, he said.
Recent studies indicate U.S. students are doing worse than most secondary education students tested in 41 countries.
“We think nationally there is a recognizable problem — not all students are learning as much mathematics as we think they should,” Reys said. “The new center is committed to increase opportunities for all students to study math.”
U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo, who chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the grant said, “The importance of math and science education can not be stressed enough in today’s high-tech job market.”
MU is the lead partner and the fiscal home for the grant. Other partners are: Michigan State University, Western Michigan University, the University of Chicago and Horizon Research Inc.