Mathematics Teaching Institute Augments Educators’ Teaching Strategies In and Outside the Classroom

By Tom McLaughlin

With master’s degrees in special education and mathematics in hand, Casey Dawson just needed to accumulate professional development hours – or so she thought – and turned to the Rutgers–Camden Teacher Development and Performance Institute for Mathematics.

The Cherry Hill resident pleasantly discovered, however, that the mathematics teaching institute, run under the auspices of the Community Leadership Center at Rutgers University–Camden, would help shape her teaching strategies both in and outside the classroom.

“By gaining a greater understanding of mathematics, I have been able to provide my students with multiple ways to solve different problems, and have learned to actively engage my students in every facet of my lesson plans,” explains Dawson, who teaches sixth-grade special education mathematics classes at the LEAP Academy University Charter School’s Upper Elementary School in Camden. “I have also learned strategies for teaching subjects that show up in daily life, such as a recent lesson on the voting system that gave students firsthand experience in how voting works.”

Dawson is currently one of 35 teachers – working in grades 3 to 8 and 5 to 8 in Camden schools – who are augmenting their teaching strategies using research-based methods learned via the mathematics teaching institute. Consistent with using core math content and practice standards, a central goal of the program is to improve student performances on state tests where available.

Funded through a $380,000 grant from the New Jersey Department of Education, the Community Leadership Center at Rutgers–Camden launched the program in collaboration with local Camden schools, teacher preparation programs, and the Woodrow Wilson New Jersey Teaching Fellowship program at Rutgers–Camden, as well as Rutgers–Camden and Rutgers University–New Brunswick faculty teaching science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics, in order to provide mathematics education to one of the most academically challenged communities in the state.

“In our cities, our young people need to be prepared to think deeply and critically so that they have the chance to become the innovators, educators, researchers, and leaders of the future who can solve the most pressing challenges facing our nation and our world,” says Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, Rutgers Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor in Public Policy and Administration, and director of the Community Leadership Center at Rutgers–Camden. “Right now, we don’t have enough prepared teachers in math and science to tackle the challenge and meet the demands of the workforce in areas of these disciplines. This institute provides the cutting-edge sustainable math and science training needed for our urban teachers.”

Participants attend a comprehensive, 10-day, 70-hour summer institute, and then continue to gain supplementary, professional-development assistance over the course of the school year.

“Upon completion of their work in this project, these teachers will become ambassadors to their peers, as they work to enrich the teaching and learning of mathematics across participating schools,” says Bonilla-Santiago.

Dawson echoed the sentiment, lauding her professors as insightful and providing her with unique strategies and websites for teaching difficult subjects to grasp.

“I am so pleased with what I have been learning,” says Dawson, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Concordia University. “I have endeavored to share that knowledge with my fellow teachers at the LEAP Academy.”

Posted in: Community Outreach

Comments are closed.