This fall, many St. Louis-area students will learn math and science with the help of creative new tools, thanks to the knowledge gained by more than 60 teachers at the Math Inquiry Institute at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

The institute ran June 27 through July 1 and featured workshops, demonstrations and networking for kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers. Participants were from various school districts including Normandy, Riverview Gardens, Fox and Ferguson-Florissant.

“The workshops were very well received by the attendees because the teachers were made aware of new developments in their field, such as the new mathematics common core standards which will affect district curriculum in the near future,” said Helene Sherman, associate dean of undergraduate education at UMSL. “Teachers gained many creative and effective strategies for teaching mathematics and the techniques were based on important content and speakers’ valuable classroom experience.”

The national Common Core Standards for Mathematics and Missouri’s Grade Level Expectations provided the content and pedagogical framework for the institute.

Bill Hass, a member of St. Louis Public Schools elected board and a new classroom teacher, attended the institute. He said professional development opportunities, such as those provided by UMSL, are so valuable to teachers. He believes that even the strongest teacher should never stop learning.

“As teachers it’s important for us to let children know they are someone, they are smart and they are cared about,” Hass said. “My goal is not to be one of those weak teachers and to always keep learning.”

The institute concluded with small group presentations about the innovated ideas learned through the week, some teachers turned math into a song, others used crafts to solve problems or created science experiments from everyday products.

“We want all K-12 teachers to move from their current pedagogical orientations to orientations that are more constructivist in nature,” said Randall Sommers, post doctoral fellow in the College of Education, who co-operated the institute with Sherman. “When K-12 teachers provide experiences for students that value their prior knowledge, emphasize problem solving and critical thinking skills, and respect their background, amazing gains in achievement can be realized for their students. We hope that this experience helps create a community of math educators that can work together throughout the year on topics in math education.”

The College of Education at UMSL ran the institute, which was sponsored by MasterCard Worldwide and the Boeing Employee Community Fund.

“As an organization, MasterCard’s community support efforts focus on improving the teaching of math, as well as supporting professional development for math teachers,” said Amanda Gioia, senior business leader for Worldwide Communications. “Making sure that students are given the opportunity to work with teachers who are excited about teaching math and making sure teachers have the training and capacity to engage students in a number of different learning styles is an important component of this support. It’s why working with the University of Missouri-St. Louis, who graduates so many students in this area and offers ongoing professional development for math teachers, makes so much sense.”

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Jen Hatton

Jen Hatton