Center Hosts 10th Annual Mathematics Specialist Conference

CMSE helps math teachers improve content knowledge, expand networking opportunities

Educators explore connections between algebraic concepts and balancing chemical equations at the 10th annual Mathematics Specialist Conference, hosted by the Center for Mathematics and Science Education. The conference drew 40 teachers from 14 counties. Photo by Whitney Jackson/Center for Mathematics and Science Education

OXFORD, Miss. – A large group of Mississippi teachers is better equipped to help their students learn mathematical concepts and use one another as a resource, thanks to a recent educator conference at the University of Mississippi.

The university’s Center for Mathematics and Science Education, or CMSE, hosted its 10th annual Mathematics Specialist Conference on Oct. 29. The primary goal was to help K-12 mathematics teachers expand their knowledge of mathematical concepts and instructional methods in public schools across the state. Forty teachers from 14 counties attended.

“This conference was a celebration of 10 years of coming together to support the teaching and learning of mathematics in Mississippi,” said Alice Steimle, CMSE director. “Our goal was to have educators share their experiences from the past and their vision for continued growth in the future.”

Events during the day included a panel discussion featuring four participants from the first math specialist conference in 2011.

The conference also hosted four breakout sessions throughout the day on topics ranging from exploring the roles of math and science specialists to integrating math and science content. Each session was facilitated by expert speakers, including Ole Miss faculty, CMSE staff and graduate students, and speakers from local school districts.

“Mathematics specialists are teacher leaders who work alongside classroom teachers to support them in strengthening their mathematics content knowledge, share best-practices for mathematics instruction, and to aid in developing quality lessons that can meet the diverse needs of students in their communities,” said Julie James, CMSE assistant director of professional learning.

This year, the CMSE also invited science specialists to attend the conference.

“The goal of having these professionals join the conversation was to provide an opportunity for these education leaders to consider the connections between mathematics and science and how to engage students in integrating their learning across these subjects,” James said.

The annual Mathematics Specialist Conference opened with a panel discussion featuring participants from the 2011 conference. Panelists were (from left) Brian Buckhalter, of Buck Wild About Math; Meghan Cates, from Mooreville Elementary School; Candies Winfun-Cook, of the Oxford School District; and Angie Halford, from Houlka Attendance Center. Photo by Whitney Jackson/Center for Mathematics and Science Education

Participants old and new said that they found the conference informative and beneficial.

“Dr. James’ breakout session on ‘Building on Students’ Strengths to Meet Their Mathematical Learning Needs’ was really helpful,” said Hilary Norwood, math and science curriculum specialist in the Jackson County School District and a first-time attendee.

“I have a strong science background, so having to deal with math curriculums is new to me. It’s very helpful being able to learn how to implement standards and network with others.”

Educators who participated in the conference ranged from kindergarten to 12th-grade teachers. Several school administrators also attended.

“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 Candies Winfun-Cook, an elementary math instructional coach in the Oxford School District who has attended the conference every year since its inception. “I hope that the participants will do as I have done, developing a network of strong relationships with others who are facing the same challenges.”

CMSE also hosts professional development events throughout the year to help educators meet the demands of changing standards.

“I believe we have begun to plant seeds toward this goal,” James said. “Responses from attendees were very positive and our hope is that additional cross-curricular conversations can be had in future conferences.”

This year’s conference was sponsored by the UM School of Education, STMath, Math Nation and Imagine Learning.

For information about these opportunities and others offered by the UM Center for Mathematics and Science Education, visit