Here is a terrific example of community outreach efforts by UK faculty interested in improving math education. What is notable here is the idea of mutuality of benefit – UK’s faculty learning from the community around us. This information was gathered from the institutional research conducted for the Carnegie Foundation’s Community Engagement reclassification effort.
Professor Carl W. Lee, UK Department of Mathematics, together with Associate Professor Margaret Mohr-Schroeder,
UK Department of STEM Ed, and other colleagues put together a funded initiative to improve math education in Kentucky. This work emerged from Appalachian Mathematics and Science Partnership (AMSP), a Center for Learning and Teaching NSF-funded grant. Through the AMSP grant, partnership enhancement projects were co-developed by the University of Kentucky AMSP leadership team and participating rural school districts. Through these reciprocal partnerships, UK faculty from the College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Education learned a great deal about the mathematics that was being taught, how it was being taught, and the needs of the school districts to help improve student achievement in mathematics. In turn the school districts worked with UK to help establish and provide high quality professional development.
Out of this professional development and work with the school districts, Drs. Lee and Mohr-Schroeder realized there was a greater need to be more explicit about mathematical connections in their own courses at UK, especially for preservice teachers. Several courses in the mathematics department were reconstructed with these lessons-learned, especially at the middle school level. A middle school geometry course was created as well as a special section of the problem solving course (now its own course) for middle school preservice teachers. The focus of these courses were on the middle school content the preservice teachers would be teaching and diving deeper into these concepts and making explicit connections.
The resulting co-authored journal article examined the mathematical connections of preservice middle grades students before, during and after taking one or both of these classes, through the use of a card sorting task. By completing this research, Drs. Lee and Mohr-Schroeder learned about the level of connections being made by the students and have continued to make adjustments to the courses and curriculum. An example of its impact is the recent revision of the middle school program, specifically the required mathematics courses. Descriptions of this community-based work by UK professors has been presented at local, regional, and national conferences including Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and American Educational Research Association.
See more in J.A. Eli, M.J. Mohr-Schroeder, and C.W. Lee, “Exploring mathematical connections of prospective middle grades teachers through card sorting tasks,” Mathematics Education Research Journal 23 (2011): 297-319.