Team Receives Grant to Form Math Teachers' Circle, Advance Math Education in Region

A team of mathematics educators at Eastern Kentucky University has received a grant from the American Institute of Mathematics that will ultimately bring together EKU mathematics faculty with middle school mathematics teachers in an effort to enhance mathematics education in the region.

The approximately $10,000 nationally competitive grant, from the American Institute of Mathematics, allowed an EKU mathematics professor and two math teachers at Corbin Middle School to attend a workshop detailing “How to Run A Math Teachers’ Circle,” which aims to engage mathematicians and middle school math teachers in problem solving and higher level mathematics. This math teachers’ circle is the first such math teachers’ circle in Kentucky and evolved from the national “circles” movement.

“This is a significant honor for EKU and our region,” said Dr. Cheryll Crowe, assistant professor in EKU’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

Michele Anderson and Cindy Davis from Corbin Middle attended the workshop, along with Crowe, in Palo Alto, Calif., and will present at the national Mathematics Association of America conference in Lexington in August. Another presentation has been submitted for a meeting of the Kentucky Council of Teachers of Mathematics this fall.

Corbin Independent Schools, which will provide the facilities for year-long workshops, represents only a starting point for what the EKU team hopes to expand throughout the University’s service region.

“Our plan in the teachers’ circle is to enhance content knowledge and link that content knowledge to the new mathematics standards,” said Nancy Williams, a lecturer in EKU’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

A weeklong “immersion workshop” will be held in Summer 2012 with monthly meetings starting that fall, according to Crowe, who added that much of the instruction will be led by middle school teachers. “Michele and Cindy will have a significant leadership role in this effort.”

The workshops “will link middle school math teachers with mathematicians in a non-threatening setting,” Crowe said. “Given the isolation of many teachers in Kentucky, this project will provide a support system for math teachers to share ideas at the middle school level, and fits well with our mathematics transitions initiative. As we support middle school teachers in their desire to become more knowledgeable in mathematics, this effort will in turn impact teaching and student learning.”         

EKU will utilize its mobile mathematics lab to acclimate middle school teachers to the latest tools in the field. “As we connect to the core academic standards, we will use a variety of technology, with an emphasis on problem solving.” Williams said.

Williams said an ultimate goal is to stir in middle school students the desire to pursue studies and a career in a STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) discipline, which has been repeatedly cited as a major need in American society.

“By high school, it is often too late to reach them,” she added.

As planning, grant writing, and recruiting continues this year, interested parties can learn more about the math circles initiative by contacting Crowe at EKU at 859-622-1620 or at cheryll.crowe@eku.edu.

Published on July 29, 2011