$1.2 Million Grant Helps UM Center Train Mississippi Math Teachers

University to train 150 teachers over three years, create professional learning communities

OXFORD, Miss. – Nearly $1.2 million in new funding will help the Center for Mathematics and Science Education at the University of Mississippi launch an initiative to improve content knowledge for up to 150 public school mathematics teachers over the next three years.

The Developing Excellence in Education through Professional, or DEEP, Learning Communities Project is funded by a grant awarded by the Mississippi Department of Education, which received federal dollars from the Mathematics and Science Partnerships designated for STEM education programs.

The project will focus on establishing learning communities among teachers and students by using instructional methods that help students obtain a deeper understanding of mathematical processes.

“We want to help change the way students interact with math,” said CMSE director John O’Haver. “Traditionally, our teaching methods don’t encourage students to really explore math and learn to think about problems on multiple levels.”

Part of the UM School of Education, the state’s largest institution for teacher and educational leader preparation, the CMSE has plans to accept the first class of the DEEP Learning Communities Project this summer.

Each year, up to 50 north Mississippi middle school math teachers will have an opportunity to become immersed in math during a two-week institute and follow-up sessions throughout the school year. One goal is to train multiple teachers from participating schools.

“We’re focusing on forging professional learning communities within schools,” said Alice Steimle, CMSE associate director. “By creating a community rather than focusing on individuals, teachers are not alone when implementing new learning strategies. If we’re helping teachers, we’re helping students, as well.”

No additional tuition is required for the additional training. Enrolled teachers will be reimbursed for mileage. When teachers return to Ole Miss for follow-up sessions during the school year, the grant provides funding to pay for a substitute.

“Specifically, teachers will learn ways of facilitating group work, mathematical discussions and helping students explain their reasoning when problem solving,” said Julie James, CMSE professional development coordinator. “Teachers will also have the opportunity to engage as learners during the summer institute. They will work in groups and engage in the same types of mathematical discussions to experience firsthand the struggle and joy of accomplishment that their students will feel.”

The first summer institute is set for July on the Oxford campus. Applications will be available this spring.