Multiplying Math Teacher Success
UI Coeur d’Alene hosts math center to support K-12 instructors
A dedicated group of teachers in northern Idaho are committed to helping kids grasp math. They are supported by the Idaho Region I Math Center at the University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene and led by Julie Amador, an assistant professor in the UI College of Education.
“The Regional Math Center has created a group of teacher-leaders of math education who are conducting action research in our classrooms that I know contributed to increasing students’ mathematical thinking,” says Kathy Prummer, a teacher at Sandpoint Middle School. “This group pushes me to a higher level of excellence.”
Prummer, a finalist for the 2015 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teacher in Idaho, said the group’s work helped lead to higher student scores on last spring’s Idaho Standards Achievement Test, as compared to other seventh graders in Idaho with similar demographics.
At the Math Center, researchers like Amador explore ways education instructors can help K-12 teachers like Prummer to be more effective. Then they share what they’ve discovered with current and future educators.
Taking Research to Teachers
The Math Center hosts classes for educators throughout the year at local schools. Regional conferences bring nearly 150 teachers at one time to discuss mathematics teaching strategies and hear from visiting experts.
“We want to equip teachers to best support students. We want to know how students are reasoning about mathematics and support educators to attend and interpret students’ thinking,” Amador says. “We’re looking at the whole instructional picture from administrators down to the students.”
Research activities at the Math Center have included producing videos demonstrating how teachers instruct math and how students process that instruction, which subsequently translates into student understanding of mathematics. Educators study the reactions and reasoning processes of the students to share with other teachers.
Bringing Teachers Together
Most recently Amador and her colleagues — regional math specialist Abe Wallin and UI Coeur d’Alene program planning director Paul Amador — gathered a group of education students, student-teachers and practicing teachers together to discuss a recent book on math instruction. While the hosts at the Math Center expected the students to learn from the seasoned professionals, they found something extra they did not expect: The less experienced student-teachers had some new research and information they could share with practicing teachers, so the benefits of the group coming together were mutual.
Amador says the book club model will be continued at the Coeur d’Alene Center in future semesters using a similar model.
“Bringing together educators with varying backgrounds and experience strengthened teaching understanding, content knowledge and how to better understand students,” she says.
Expanding Math Education Knowledge
The results of the book group research were published recently as an academic article in Mentoring and Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, a publication by the Routledge Taylor and Francis Group.
In the article, Amador and her team explain how the benefit of creating dialogue between educators in various places on their educational path proved a valuable experience for their overall understanding of the challenges faced by students and their parents in tackling the implementation of Common Core State Standards for mathematics.
“In the process, participants valued the security fostered from the relationships, generated new relationships with others with varying experiences, engaged in reflective practice and considered exposure to other perspectives to be beneficial,” the article states.
Amador’s research concludes that a book club as an informal professional development model can contribute to positive outcomes for participants as they foster partnerships and develop increased understandings.
Through this, Amador says, the ultimate beneficiaries are math students of all ages, who will increase their understanding and competency in math across the board.
- Article by Jocelyn Stott, University Communications and Marketing