Debbie Fancher explains a math game to teachers from across the state Thursday afternoon during the eighth annual CHAMPS professional development program at Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science. The two-week program offers intensive training for teachers who want to brush up on their math skills and learn how to more effectively teach math. Photo by: Carmen K. Sisson
July 22, 2011 1:24:00 PM
If the word "math" conjures nightmares of memorizing the Pythagorean theorem and quadratic formula, take heart: Teachers across the state feel your pain, and many have dedicated their summer to learning how to teach math in a more dynamic way.
Bettie Williams, who teaches sixth grade at Columbus Middle School, was one of 48 teachers who participated in Mississippi University for Women''s eighth annual Creating High Achievement in Mathematics and Problem Solving program this week at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science.
The two-week program, which ends today, is geared toward fourth- through eighth-grade teachers who want to brush up on their math skills while learning new techniques to make the subject more engaging.
Project director Sarah Sumners said it is especially important for teachers of middle grades who may only be trained to teach elementary school math and may not have studied things like algebra since college.
Sumners said the CHAMP program not only improves teachers'' skills but also raises their confidence.
"Even within the first few days, many have that existential moment of ''Oh, I get this now,''" she said. "To know the math is one thing, but to be able to teach it is a totally separate thing."
Standing in the hallway during a break from class, Williams was exuberant.
She has taught in the Columbus Municipal School District for nine years, and though she liked math when she was in school, she said her students sometimes struggle with it.
"I wanted some more skills to reach the children I wasn''t reaching quickly enough," Williams said. "I learned strategies for multiplication, division and negative numbers. It was fascinating."
She also wanted to refresh her algebra skills.
"If you''re not confident in what you''re teaching, you can''t teach it," Williams said.
Jon Zarenda, who teaches seventh grade at Fifth Street Junior High School in West Point, said he wanted to learn how to incorporate group activities into his lesson plan.
"Students have a difficult time conceptualizing what numbers mean," Zarenda said. "I learned how to give the kids hands-on activities where they can see what (numbers) look like in the real world."
In addition to the summer workshop, participating teachers are required to attend four Saturday workshops.
Sumner said half the teachers will also receive in-class mentor coaching four times a year as part of an experiment to see what impact mentors make on teacher effectiveness and student achievement.
The CHAMPS program is funded by a $518,000 Mathematics and Science Partnership grant through the Mississippi Department of Education.
The grant gives eligible Mississippi teachers the opportunity to attend the two-week workshop at no charge and provides travel expenses as well as funding for teachers to attend the state and national conferences of the Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Carmen K. Sisson is news editor at The Dispatch.
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