Friedberg Aims To Boost Skills Of Math Teachers

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

Prof. Solomon Friedberg (Mathematics) has won a three-year $252,000 federal grant that will support a project to improve the teaching skills of future math professors.

The grant from the Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education will fund the efforts of a team of researchers, led by Friedberg, to develop a case-study method - similar to those used in law and business schools - for training graduate students in mathematics to be effective classroom teachers.

"Graduate students in math, first of all, study math - but they also play a role in the academy as teachers," said Friedberg. "Typically, grad students get very little training in how to be teachers of mathematics. This project aims to develop new kinds of materials to help them become better teachers."

The training materials his team is devising will present case studies of classroom situations that a college math professor might face, Friedberg said. They will cover issues such as mathematics pedagogy, the relationship between teachers and teaching assistants, and the adaptation of foreign graduate students - who number roughly half of those enrolled in American doctoral programs in mathematics - to American teaching methods.

A challenge any math teacher faces, Friedberg noted, is reaching students whose gift for numbers is not as great as his or her own. "To be a math professor, you have to be a fast learner of math," he said. "Then you go into a classroom where not every student is a fast learner. How do you bridge that gap?"

Working with Friedberg on the project are Prof. Margaret Kenney (Mathematics) and colleagues from Harvard University, the University of New Hampshire, Ohio State University and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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