MU faculty assist math teachers for middle schools

Monday, September 27, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:42 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Thanks to the work of MU researchers, middle-school math teachers may be better prepared to teach.

Faculty from the Department of Mathematics and the College of Education have been working on the Connecting Middle School and College Mathematics (CM)2 project for three years. Their work was funded by a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

Mathematics professor Ira Papick and education professor Barbara Reys said the project consisted of two stages: first, developing a curriculum and second, recruiting middle-school math teachers.

“There’s a particular kind of mathematics that’s important for teachers to know … but we also had to find a way to recruit people,” Reys said.

Papick said the program makes the connection between the courses that education students take at the college level and what they are going to teach in their classrooms.

The (CM)2 project developed foundational math courses and materials in four areas — data analysis and probability connections, algebra, geometry and calculus — that were taught in outreach courses throughout Missouri.

“I think that a lot of (the participants) felt that there was some mathematics that they previously knew about but they didn’t really understand at a deep level, and these courses helped them have some really ‘ah-ha!’ moments,” said Terry Goodman, a professor of math and computer science at Central Missouri State University. Kelley Sturgis took the algebra course and said she found it extremely helpful in teaching developmental math courses at Lincoln University.

“For teachers to teach math, I think it is imperative that teachers understand the why’s and how’s of math,” Sturgis said. “The class gave a broader understanding of math and how it works.”

Kathy Ungles, a math education major, took the algebra and data analysis and probability courses and is currently taking the geometry course.

“The biggest thing for me coming into it — being that I’m not currently a teacher — was to get the perspective and ideas of others teachers,” Ungles said. “Knowing what worked for them and what didn’t is just very helpful.”

Researchers involved in the project also developed textbooks in each of the four areas to help mathematics teachers in the classroom. The textbooks will be published by Prentice Hall next year.

“Now that the materials are developed and will be published, part of the next step is getting them out in published form so that other faculty at other schools can use them,” Reys said.

Papick and Reys said the recruitment team focused on high school students, undeclared college students with a strong interest in math, teachers who had elementary math certification that wanted to upgrade to a middle school certificate and people interested in changing careers.

Papick said the researchers are trying to sustain the project after the grant is over. “We’re trying to find an infrastructure on this campus to continue all of our efforts,” Papick said.

“The point is to find (people), bring them here and send them out as excellent teachers,” Papick said.

More information about the project is available at its Web site at

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