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BC to Train Math Teachers with $1.6m NSF Grant

By Ed Hayward | Chronicle Staff

Published: Sept. 5, 2013

Faculty from the Lynch School of Education and the Mathematics Department have been awarded a $1.6 million National Science Foundation grant to train and support math teachers for high-need school districts in Massachusetts.

The program will have two tracks, according to Lynch School Associate Professor Lillie Albert, an expert in teacher education and the principal investigator on the project, which is titled “Exemplary Mathematics Educators for High-Need Schools.”

One track will place aspiring math teachers with the Lynch School’s Donovan Scholars for an intensive one-year master’s degree program. The other track will bring teachers from Boston and Framingham schools with three to four years of experience to campus for additional professional development and to mentor the master’s candidates.

Albert said the program includes a unique stipend system designed to not only help offset costs of the program, but also supplement the salaries of mathematics teachers as a potential national model to attract and retain accomplished mathematicians and math majors as classroom teachers.

The 16 participants will be eligible for stipends of $10,000 a year for up to five years so long as they maintain their commitment to teaching in school districts with a high need for qualified math teachers, Albert said.

“What we’re trying to do differently is support teachers not only during that phase where they are preparing to become teachers, but also once they enter the profession and as they establish themselves early in their careers,” said Albert, who is joined on the grant by co-principal investigators James P. McIntyre Professor of Mathematics Solomon Friedberg and Associate Professor of Mathematics Chi-Keung Cheung.

Albert said mentoring is a central theme of the new project.

“We have a program that is called Mathematicians in the Classroom where experienced mathematicians – they may be retired master teachers or university faculty – will serve as mentors to these teachers,” said Albert. “The participants will also have a mentor who is a practicing teacher, someone who has been in the field for several years. I think that’s a unique component that provides another strong support element.”

In addition to classes, professional development, stipends and mentoring, the project includes a partnership with the non-profit group Math for America Boston, the Education Development Center and colleagues at Boston University in an effort to create a network that supports math teachers in Greater Boston.

“These partnerships are important as we continue our work to build a cohort of outstanding mathematics teachers who can not only excel in the classroom, but also serve as leaders for other teachers,” said Friedberg. “The organizations we’re working with have given a lot of thought to the ongoing development of math teachers and we’ll be working with them to support these teachers.”

Friedberg said the grant advances a rich partnership between Mathematics and the Lynch School, which has teamed up on the Teachers for a New Era initiative and also developed an annual mathematics seminar that brings teachers, professors and school administrators to campus to examine current issues in the discipline.