University of Arizona
Institute for Mathematics and Education

Report on the March 2006 Workshop on Teacher Education

Mark Saul

The role of mathematicians

A group of participants expressed the wish that mathematicians use their academic prestige to influence state education departments to support improvements in classroom teaching and in assessment tools.

The group from Nebraska reported that their course development process includes mathematicians, mathematics educators, and master teachers in the schools.

Ira Papick, from the Missouri group, described the frequent bewilderment of mathematicians–including himself–when they first come to work with teachers. For example, he wondered, ``Why aren't these people as interested as I am in the fundamental theorem of arithmetic?'' He noted that buy-in occurred when he showed them materials they actually used which involved this theorem.

The role of administrators and other stakeholders

A theme that haunted the meeting was the role of school administrators in introducing the mathematician's view into teacher education.

For example, the Virginia group, which is training teachers to be math specialists, immediately faced the problem of administrators asking, ``What do math specialists do all day? Why hire someone who is not working with students?'' The insight that an investment in teacher improvement might pay off in a reduction in remedial classes---as well as higher student achievement---was one that some administrators found obvious, but others had to be led to. A related theme is that of assessing our programs. Many presenters gave examples of how they kept track of the changes in teachers' practice and in student achievement.

A theme that emerged only late in the meeting was work with communities---not just a school district, but groups of parents, students, business and political groups, the entire range of stakeholders in the success of our schools. The group from Portland State articulated this clearly, asking, ``What are the expectations of the communities for whom you are designing courses? How do you find out about what these expectations are?''

Calling this question was, for many participants, a signal moment in the conference.

Learning from each other

This list of observations will conclude the way the conference concluded, with the theme of learning from each other. At the end of the conference, each group gave a short summary of what they were taking away with them. Some of these points were:

  • The Virginia group commented on their renewed interest in imbedding methods in content and vice versa, and making the effort transparent to participants
  • The Illinois group spoke about possible the creation of a capstone experience of some sort for teachers in various programs, as well as a math/math education discussion group, including whoever wanted to show up.
  • The New Mexico group spoke about what they had learned about working with the greater community in which the act of teaching is embedded.


The second day

Dan Madden, Ginnie Bohme
Jim Lewis, Cheryl Olsen
Kate Stevenson, Mark Saul, Srdjan Divac
Ryota Matsuura, Glenn Stevens, Sarah Sword