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Math classes statewide will benefit from $5 million grant awarded to NMSU

A $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to New Mexico State University's Mathematically Connected Communities Leadership Institute for Teachers (MC2 -LIFT) will benefit teachers and students statewide.

New Mexico State University Mathematics Professor Patrick Morandi leads a Saturday course as part of the Mathematically Connected Communities Leadership Institute for Teachers, which benefits students and teachers statewide. (Photo by Donyelle Kesler)

The program enables New Mexico teachers to improve classroom practices to increase student math learning as well as develop expertise in working with adult colleagues and administrators within a school system. The program also allows participating teachers to earn a K-12 mathematics coach certificate and a Master of Arts in teaching.

"MC2 -LIFT responds to the need of partner districts that have embarked on full-scale implementation of new mathematics curriculum in recent years, yet lack the leadership in current mathematics education research and teacher professional learning to support full enactment of a quality curriculum," MC2-LIFT Principal Investigator Patrick Morandi said.

The first group of Teacher Leaders to participate in the MC2 -LIFT program was selected earlier this year. The 31 teachers began last summer on what will be a two-year commitment that includes attending a three-week Summer Institute annually, enrolling in four semesters of integrated education and mathematics coursework and implementing the classroom practices in a school setting while being coached and observed by MC2 -LIFT faculty and researchers. While teachers are responsible for the payment of course tuition, they do receive a $10,000 annual stipend for participation.

"The program was designed by mathematicians, education faculty and school district leaders in order to develop, over the grant's five years, a cadre of 60 mathematics Teacher Leaders who will have a deep conceptual knowledge of K-12 mathematics, as well as the skills and dispositions to facilitate growth in mathematics, teaching and learning environments in schools or districts," Morandi said.

To ensure the program reaches its full potential, MC2 -LIFT not only works with teachers but also school principals and administrators. Principals commit to participate in monthly partnership planning meetings, to work with Teacher Leaders, and to develop and implement a school-based plan for mathematics progress. They also will attend five days of Math Institute for Principals, for which they receive a stipend of up to $1,000 for non-contract time.

"We try to work with all parts of the district," MC2-LIFT Co-Principal Investigator and Project Director Wanda Bulger-Tamez said. "We have to have district support and teacher buy-in if we are going to have sustainable change in schools and classrooms."

MC2 -LIFT aims not only to increase Teacher Leaders' knowledge of mathematics and allow them to implement these practices into the classroom, but also to develop intellectual leaders and to sustain partnerships between mathematicians, education faculty and school districts. To accomplish this, MC2 -LIFT has both a research and a school support team providing training and guidance throughout the process.

In addition to Morandi and Bulger-Tamez, MC2-LIFT's teams include Las Cruces Public Schools Associate Superintendent Steve Sanchez and Director of Curriculum Elizabeth Marrufo, NMSU College of Education Associate Dean for Research Karin Wiburg, NMSU Mathematics Professors Doug Kurtz and Bruce Olberding and NMSU Education Professors Cathy Kinzer, Janice Bradley, O.D. Hadfield and Linda Uribe. Other staff involved in designing the project activities includes Sheila Raihl, Lisa Virag, Sara Morales and Ken Korn.

The program's goal is to provide New Mexico public schools with highly engaged teachers who are continuously improving their mathematics instruction. These trained teachers will be able to create active, problem-solving based math classrooms and collaborate with fellow teachers to identify and diagnose student strengths and weaknesses and take the necessary actions to increase student learning.

The grant will help fund summer institutes and support teacher and principal stipends as well as staff salaries.

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