College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

UM Lands $1.2 Million Grant to Benefit Math Teachers

Center for Mathematics and Science Education kicks off Project C4 to enhance classroom efforts

FEBRUARY 29, 2016 | BY ELIZABETH MCCORMICK

CMSE professional development coordinator Julie James (left) advises a Mississippi teacher during a professional development workshop.

CMSE professional development coordinator Julie James (left) advises a teacher during a professional development workshop.

The Mississippi Department of Education has awarded a $1.2 million grant to the University of Mississippi Center for Mathematics and Science Education to fund a professional development initiative that will benefit up to 120 math teachers in Mississippi public schools over the next three years.

Dubbed the C4 Project, the Creating Continuity and Connections across Content Project seeks to improve student achievement in mathematics among K-8 students and enhance teacher performance. C4 will fortify teachers’ content knowledge and, more importantly, their big-picture understanding of objectives and the learning processes across multiple grade levels.

“In this project, teachers in grades K-8 will all be together in one class and look at the spectrum of how students learn math across those grade levels,” explained Julie James, CMSE professional development coordinator. “We want to equip these teachers with a bigger picture understanding of where they fit in the puzzle of how students learn mathematics.”

The grant funding for C4 hails from the Mathematics and Science Partnerships, or MSP, between MDE and the U.S. Department of Education. This is the third major grant-funded project the CMSE has launched through MSP-MDE funding since it opened at UM in 2006.

Starting this summer, the project will benefit select educators in north Mississippi through a two-week summer institute. An annual conference for participating teachers, as well as follow-up activities led by accomplished mathematics instructors throughout the academic year, is also in the works.

The second focus of C4 is on formative assessment, a concept that integrates assessment into the teaching process, James said. Formative assessment training will be an online component of the project and the major focus of the annual conference.

“This is an opportunity to help teachers learn how to assess students on a daily basis or on a weekly basis, so when it comes time for the end of unit or even the state test, there’s no surprises,” James said. “Teachers will know how everyone is going to perform because you know what they’ve learned and will have evidence from the students.”

The CMSE will use an assessment team from the University of Alabama at Birmingham to evaluate the project throughout its three-year run. Both teams will work together to measure the impact of C4, assessing content knowledge at the beginning and end of summer institutes among teachers.

“I really hope we can begin to embrace the new college and career readiness standards statewide and come together as a state to improve mathematics education,” said Alice Steimle, CMSE associate director. “We can work together to form these communities of teachers that learn from each other, learn best practices and rely on one another in this network of teachers that we’re creating with the C4 Project.”

Laura Sheppardson

Laura Sheppardson, associate professor and associate chair of mathematics

James Reid, professor and chair of mathematics

James Reid, professor and chair of mathematics

James Reid and Laura Sheppardson, both professors in the University of Mississippi Department of Mathematics, will also work with the C4 Project by providing in-depth content instruction during the summer institutes.

“There will be opportunities for teachers to come in and do some pure math things that are beyond the classroom,” James said. “This gives teachers an opportunity to see how math is applied beyond K-12. Their focus will be more on real world application of math.”