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September 2008

Release Date: Sept. 25, 2008ASU Logo

New Mathematics Project Nets $1.16 Million Grant for ASU

Angelo State University has been awarded $1.16 million by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to collaborate with several regional partners on a project that could result in a new national model for training mathematics teachers.

The ASU sub-award is part of a total $6 million NSF grant to the members of the West Texas Middle School Mathematics Partnership (WTMSMP) that also includes Texas Tech University, Sul Ross State University, UT-Permian Basin, the Lubbock Independent School District and Texas Education Service Centers in Regions 15, 17 and 18.

“This award is an excellent example of the value of a great West Texas partnership,” said Dr. Paul Swets, head of ASU’s Mathematics Department. “The size of our part of this great state and the scope of the project make it clear that no one entity could do this alone. However, the various strengths and resources that the partners – universities, regional service centers and public schools alike – bring to the table make it exciting to be a part of the WTMSMP.”

Starting in 2009, the five-year project will bring select middle school teachers together for intensive classes in specific areas of mathematics taught in middle school. The first groups of teachers will be selected this spring and the first course, which will focus on numbers, will be taught this summer on each of the four partner university campuses. Subsequent course topics will be developed based on teacher input and identified needs.

The classes taught each summer at ASU and the other campuses will last about three weeks, including preparation work, two weeks of course work, and assessment. Participating teachers will also attend annual spring theme conferences and cooperate with WTMSMP researchers in data collection and analysis. In return, the teachers will receive up to nine hours of graduate credit, stipends totaling at least $9,000, and travel and subsistence allowances.

The project is expected to impact more than 150 teachers and 50,000 students over its five-year duration.

“By partnering with other universities and Education Service Centers across West Texas, we can reach more teachers and many more students,” said Gary Harris, Texas Tech mathematics professor and the project’s lead investigator. “Our goal is to develop and deliver new courses at the university level in which middle school teachers will acquire a deep understanding of the elementary mathematics they teach, mathematics teaching knowledge, and cultural sensitivity to the diverse West Texas student population.”

The broad geographic area covered by the partnership provides an opportunity to look at teaching methods in a wide variety of schools with an emphasis on examining the impact that cultural diversity and language have on the learning of mathematics. The project will also examine the impact of the resource constraints faced by rural schools on teaching and learning.

Another key component of the project is research. Middle school teachers were chosen as the target group because middle school appears to be a critical time in math education for American students.

“There is some thought,” said Harris, “that American students excel in math and can compete with students in any country in the world up until about the fourth grade. But for some reason between grades four and nine, our students lose that edge. Some of our research will look at whether providing teachers with more in-depth training rather than focusing on broader training will narrow that achievement gap.”

“I am looking forward,” said Swets, “to sharing with and learning from the dedicated mathematics teachers of West Texas. This project provides an incredible opportunity for universities, education service centers and public schools to work together to serve not only the state, but also the nation, by ultimately increasing the mathematical knowledge of middle school students, leading to greater opportunities for them both in school and in their future careers.”

For more information on the project and/or how to apply for participation, contact Dr. Swets at (325) 942-2111, ext. 222, or by e-mail at Paul.Swets@angelo.edu.

Additional information about the West Texas Middle School Mathematics Partnership, including contact information for all partners and application packets, will be available starting Oct. 1 at www.wtmsmp.math.ttu.edu.