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2004 Newsletter
 
School of Mathematics
Number 11 University of Minnesota Newsletter Spring 2005
       
IT Center for Educational Programs (ITCEP)

ITCEP programs have a major impact on education throughout Minnesota. Our Master’s Degree Program in Mathematics with Emphasis in Education is administered in cooperation with ITCEP, with ITCEP’s Director Professor Harvey Keynes serving as advisor for the students enrolled in the program. Our faculty and graduate students are also enthusiastic participants in the UMTYMP program. ITCEP’s Communications Coordinator Alexandra Janosek reports below on these programs as well as on an exciting ITCEP program to enhance the mathematics skills of public school teachers. We are grateful to Alexandra for providing these articles.

MASTERING MATHEMATICS & EDUCATION

Though students of the Master’s Degree Program in Mathematics with Emphasis in Math Education come from diverse backgrounds and continue on to various careers, the factor they have most in common is their love of mathematics.

Through the program, these students have the opportunity to indulge their higher math craving, gain invaluable teaching experience, receive financial aid, and earn a teaching license – all in just two years – giving them an advantage in any number of career fields.

The program, housed in the School of Mathematics as a Master’s of Science Degree program, requires students to take a year each of advanced math courses and math education courses, including a semester of student teaching in a high school. In addition, all students have a paid TA position in college-level classes offered by the School of Mathematics or the University of Minnesota Talented Youth Mathematics Program (UMTYMP). “Students aren’t accepted into the program unless they are qualified for a TA position in the School of Math,” says Harvey Keynes, the advising professor for program students. This means they were successful in their undergraduate programs, have a primary focus on mathematics, and a strong interest in teaching.

These qualifications are evident in the students, according to Terry Wyberg, an instructor in the Math Education Department who works closely with Keynes and program students. “The students’…math content knowledge is exceptional. They are so excited about math and discuss it with such enthusiasm that the classes are more vibrant for having them there.” With their experience in both high school and college settings, graduates of the program “really have a feel for what teaching is like,” says Wyberg.

And these are qualities schools are seeking. “I easily found a job,” states Justin Jacobs, a 2002 alumnus. “I taught…at Westwood Middle School…[and] Park Center Senior High... I feel that I have been successful at both schools, and I have to give much of the credit for my success to my college experience.” Melissa Morgan, also a 2002 graduate, adds, “With a Master’s degree, I am paid more and I have been able to teach more advanced classes, which I enjoy very much.” After 6 years teaching, Carraig Hegi, a graduate of the first class in 1998, is a high school teacher, math team advisor and creates “new materials as needed” for his school.

But the program prepares graduates for other career paths too. “It gives me a lot of options for my career,” says Chris Robinson, a current first-year student. “I see myself teaching in a junior high or high school over the next 5 or 6 years, but I also have an interest in developing curriculum.” Sarah Cherry, one of Robinson’s classmates, also sees herself developing curriculum and teaching but in a non-classroom setting, such as a museum or a university center. John Hall, one of Hegi’s classmates, is now finishing his Ph.D. in Mathematics. He says “I am a much better Ph.D. student than I would have been coming straight from undergraduate work.”

Considering the quality of students emerging from the program, it is no wonder those closely involved hold it in such high regard. It has proved a, “constructive, sustainable and worthwhile master's program,” according to Professor Paul Garrett. “This program potentially could change the way math is taught in Minnesota. It has resulted in a leadership group who really understand mathematics.”

MATH PROGRAMS FOR PROMISING YOUTH

The programs for mathematically promising elementary and secondary school students developed by the IT Center for Educational Programs (ITCEP) continue to thrive. These academic year and summer programs provide students with a supportive environment in which to explore challenging mathematics at the University of Minnesota.

In 2004-05, five hundred-seven (507) students are participating in ITCEP’s five-year premier academic program, the University of Minnesota Talented Youth Mathematics Program (UMTYMP). UMTYMP offers a rigorous mathematics curriculum that allows highly motivated, talented students in grades 5-12 to learn complex topics and gain meaningful insights at a high level and accelerated pace. The courses are taught by math department familiars such as post doctoral fellows Jennifer Wagner and Simon Morgan, doctoral students John Hall and Jonathan Rogness, and by Professor Harvey Keynes. The first year calculus course has a record enrollment of 85 students, 18 of whom are in the eighth grade or below.

In addition to UMTYMP, ITCEP offers enrichment programs at several levels during the school year and in the summer. About 500 students enroll each year in the 5 academic year programs for students in grades 3-10. These programs provide opportunities to learn and enjoy mathematics and introduce students to the role of mathematics in society through meeting and working with scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. Students also have the opportunity to meet and interact with U of MN undergraduate students, most of whom are majoring in mathematics, engineering, or science. Young students tend to base their educational and career goals on what they have experienced and the role models they emulate. ITCEP continues to offer these experiences to students in the summer. In conjunction with Youth & Community Programs of the University’s Department of Recreational Sports, ITCEP provides math classes varying from Geometric Art (8-9 year olds) to more advanced classes in Algebra and Geometry (13-15 year olds).

In 2005, ITCEP will launch a new summer course that will lay a solid foundation of analysis, geometry and vectors from which calculus-ready students can springboard into a calculus course, especially UMTYMP Calculus I. Jonathan Rogness, who will receive his doctorate from the Department of Mathematics in June 2005, will develop and teach the course in collaboration with Professor Harvey Keynes. In 2006 and 2007, ITCEP plans to develop and introduce prequels to this course – Algebraic Reasoning and Connections to Geometry and Geometric Reasoning and Connections to Algebra – with the help of ITCEP post-doctoral fellows.

These post-doctoral fellows, together with University faculty and doctoral students, will also help with the continuation of ITCEP’s rising Math Seminar series. In these monthly seminars, accelerated high school and college students actively participate in a dynamic discussion of concepts beyond calculus and innovations in mathematical research.

Another innovative ITCEP enrichment program on the 2005-06 horizon is a “Math Circle” where middle and high school students can delve more deeply into geometric reasoning through group problem solving, mathematical discussions and contests. Students will be encouraged to lead their own explorations into the mathematical topics.

For further information on these programs, contact the IT Center for Educational Programs or visit our website: www.itcep.umn.edu/.

THE MATHEMATICS WITHIN

Ours is not to question why,
Just to invert and multiply!

As a teacher participant in the 2003-04 Improving Teacher Quality (ITQ) Mathematics Within program, John Weimholt modified the well-known quote to illustrate common elementary school approaches to teaching mathematics. Fellow public school teachers enrolled in the 2003 summer course and the instructional team working with them appreciated this quip and the reality that it reflects.

The ITQ Mathematics Within Program, started in 2002, combines teachers’ experiences with faculty knowledge to increase teachers’, and therefore students’, understanding of grade 3-7 mathematics concepts and how these concepts relate to one another and with concepts throughout K-12 education.

The partnership between public school teachers and IT Center for Educational Programs (ITCEP) faculty is invaluable, according to Jennifer Tolzmann, a Forest Lake Public School District Coordinator who has progressed from teacher participant in 2002 to instructional team member in 2004. The program fosters mutual learning and sharing, says Professor Harvey Keynes, Director of ITCEP and leader of the Mathematics Within instructional team. “Faculty members learn to respect teachers’ abilities to model pedagogical technique and teachers appreciate faculty efforts to share their knowledge of core mathematical topics.”

“No one ever explained to me the 'whys' of mathematics before,” revealed one 2003 teacher participant. “Asking why a rule works instead of just applying it – it’s a totally new way of thinking for most of the teachers,” says Assistant Professor Simon Morgan, one of the instructional team members. For example, one of the techniques used to explore concepts was drawing models that explain why commonly known rules, like ‘dividing by ½ is the same as multiplying by 2,’ are true. “Visual representations used to explain why actually helped me ‘get it,’” reports one of the teacher participants.

More elementary teachers ‘getting it’ is the key to nurturing student achievement, says Tolzmann. “I feel more comfortable answering students’ questions and letting them explore,” explains a teacher after taking the 2004 summer course. A 2003 summer teacher participant states: “Taking time to look at some of the [mathematical] patterns and relationships helped me deepen my understanding and ability to relate them to my students.” In grades 3-6, students learn foundational mathematics concepts; understanding these concepts will facilitate the rest of their education.

When teachers of these grades appreciate what an impact they have on their students’ mathematical future, they realize “they can make a difference in their job,” says Tolzmann. Morgan can tell something has changed in the teachers when they return to the University for their Spring Follow-up Workshop – “they are more confident, their students are more confident and that leads to more success in the classroom.” “I am a changed person!” exclaims a teacher participant.

The Mathematics Within program not only increases teacher confidence in their ability to teach mathematics, it motivates them and helps them take leadership roles at whatever level they want – school, district, state or nationally, according to Keynes. To date, 66 elementary school teachers from 18 Minnesota public school districts have participated in the program. Among these are some of education’s leaders of tomorrow.

The ITQ projects are funded in part by a grant from the Minnesota Higher Education Services Office. For more information, visit www.itcep.umn.edu/profdev.

 
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