CMSE Hosts Third Annual Mathematics Specialist Conference

Center helps math teachers improve content knowledge, prepare for Common Core

Oxford School District Director of Curriculum and Instruction Candy Mize (left), CMSE fellow Brian Buckhalter (middle) and Bruce High School math teacher Jennifer Foshee (right) look on as fellow educators work though a mathematics lesson.

OXFORD, Miss. – A large group of Mississippi teachers is better equipped to help their students learn mathematical concepts and prepare for the new Common Core educational standards, thanks to a recent educator conference at the University of Mississippi.

The university’s Center for Mathematics and Science Education, or CMSE, hosted its third annual Mathematics Specialist Conference on Oct. 4. The event’s primary goal was to help K-12 mathematics teachers expand their knowledge of mathematical concepts and instructional methods in order to better implement new Common Core State Standards being adopted in public schools across the state. Some 89 teachers from 29 counties attended.

“This conference was aimed toward math specialists and lead teachers; however, different types of educators attended, including some principals,” said Alice Steimle, CMSE associate director. “Our goal was to not only help teachers gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of mathematics, but to help these educators better prepare their fellow teachers with new strategies, which will lead to improved student achievement.”

As Mississippi fully implements Common Core, students and teachers must prepare for new assessments being developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. PARCC is a consortium of states and the District of Columbia that have joined together to work toward a common assessment based on the Common Core standards.

“We began this conference to provide an opportunity for mathematics teacher leaders from across the state to collaborate and learn from one another,” said Julie James, CMSE professional development coordinator. “We want to help create communities of learning where educators not only are prepared to help student meet certain standards, but also foster a real knowledge and appreciation of mathematics.”

The assessments developed by PARCC will replace the Mississippi Curriculum Test, known as MCT2, beginning in the 2014-2015 academic year. CMSE professional development programs are designed to help educators refocus their teaching efforts to better prepare students for college and careers by building a solid foundation of mathematical knowledge.

“Dr. Alice Steimle’s breakout session on Content Connections for Elementary Grades was really helpful,” said Kristy Brewer, a third-grade math teacher at Verona Elementary School. “I’m here to find out more about how I can better engage my students and prepare them to meet Common Core standards.”

Educators who participated in the conference ranged from kindergarten teachers to 12th-grade teachers and were diverse in specialization. The conference hosted nine breakout sessions throughout the day on topics ranging from teaching fraction skills to daily lesson planning. Each session was facilitated by expert speakers, including UM faculty, CMSE staff and representatives from Mississippi Department of Education, as well as local school districts.

“By attending, we’re able to bring back what we’ve learned to those that weren’t able to attend and share the resources we’ve been given to better lead our classes,” said UM alumna and Oxford Elementary School third-grade teacher Jessica Mathias.

One of the biggest challenges for teachers will be changing their instruction to implement the new standards for mathematical practice and engaging students in the lessons, James said. CMSE will host more professional development events to help educators meet the demands of Common Core standards throughout the year.

“The University of Mississippi and the CMSE strive to be relevant resources for teachers and students,” James said. “By providing meaningful opportunities for them to deepen their mathematical understandings, we hope to make a difference across our state.”

For information about these opportunities and others offered by the UM Center for Mathematics and Science Education, visit http://www.olemiss.edu/cmse.

About Jerra A. Scott