$20 Million Grant + Partnerships = Improved Math Teaching and Learning
Improving the teaching and learning of mathematics for Milwaukee Public Schools' (MPS) 100,000 students takes the effort and collaboration of many players. But with the help of a $20 million 5-year grant from the National Science Foundation, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), MPS and Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) have joined forces to form the Milwaukee Mathematics Partnership (MMP) and reach that goal.
Students at Zablocki Elementary School work on math games.
Mathematics faculty, educators and staff from these three institutions are working together to provide reform for Milwaukee students in kindergarten through college. The MMP is also part of the Milwaukee Partnership Academy, a collaborative effort among universities, MPS, the teachers' union and other business and local organizations to improve student achievement in the public schools.
In order to improve student achievement, DeAnn Huinker, director of UWM's Center for Mathematics and Science Education Research and principal investigator for the grant, said the MMP has embraced four major goals.
Help Students Succeed in Mathematics
Through funding of this grant, a comprehensive mathematics framework was developed and implemented at all MPS schools in the past year. The five components of mathematical proficiency (understanding, computing, reasoning, applying and engaging), drive classroom practice and define high-quality teaching of challenging mathematics.
"If you're going to be good in math, you can't just be good at computation, you have to be good in all areas of the framework," Huinker said. These components are incorporated into teacher preparation and continuing professional development, as well.
Better Prepare Students for College-level Math Classes
"The MMP is focusing on the issue of kids transitioning successfully to college," said Huinker, "and our hope is that they will not need to take remedial math courses." To meet this goal, they are striving to increase enrollment and student success in challenging high school math courses.
Strengthen the Ability of Current K-12 Teachers in Math
To strengthen current teachers, the MMP helped each MPS school designate a Math Teacher Leader. This teacher takes on a math leadership role at his or her school, working with the school's learning team to focus their efforts on improving mathematics learning and teaching, and supporting educators who teach math. The leaders also meet monthly to develop expertise to coach colleagues and to share successes and challenges about supporting math at their schools.
Improve the Preparation of Mathematics Teachers
Because UWM is the largest provider of new teachers to MPS and because a number of UWM's students start at MATC, Huinker said the two schools needed to look at how they prepare teachers in order to improve student math achievement in the future.
In the past, students transferring from MATC to the UWM teacher preparation program hadn't taken math courses required by UWM. MATC has worked with the School of Education and the UWM Department of Mathematical Sciences to develop parallel math courses so transfer students are no longer behind.
"Now more faculty members at UWM and MATC know each other and we are making stronger links and connections, especially in relation to teacher preparation and transition issues," Huinker said.
The MMP also established the Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) Network to share knowledge among two- and four-year colleges and universities in southeastern Wisconsin's schools that are likely to contribute teachers to MPS. This network of 16 colleges and universities focuses its efforts in three areas: preparing urban math teachers, developing the math knowledge needed for quality teaching, and ensuring successful college transition and challenging mathematics curricula.
To help connect the mathematical knowledge being learned in math courses to the knowledge needed for teaching in urban environments, the MMP was able to incorporate the Teachers-in-Residence Program, a collaboration of MPS and UWM since 2000. Four MPS teachers are on a two-year special assignment at UWM, where they work closely with math faculty and math education faculty, and participate in courses to deepen their math content knowledge.
The second year of the grant is well underway, and Huinker is excited about everything the MMP has already accomplished.
"We are improving what we do at UWM, MATC and MPS," said Huinker. "We know we are all connected and we think this partnership will converge on improved teaching and thus improved student learning."