Statewide expertise + ongoing teacher support = improved math education

Nevada Mathematics Project supports 126 teachers implementing the Nevada Academic Content Standard


9/8/2014 | By: Nicole Shearer  |

This summer, a statewide mathematics initiative got underway to improve math instruction and student achievement in Nevada. The Nevada Mathematics Project, a multi-agency collaboration, provided professional development in the Nevada Academic Content Standards for mathematics to teachers throughout the state.

The project, led by University of Nevada, Reno Associate Professor of Elementary Mathematics Education Teruni Lamberg, focused on effectively supporting teachers in the progression of mathematics from third through eighth grade curriculum. This allows teachers a thorough understanding of the preceding grade and what will be taught in the following grade. Lamberg, along with a higher education project team, traveled to four professional development sites around the state where they held week-long workshops for teachers representing each school district in Nevada including some private and charter schools.

"This project came together because of a giant shared vision," Lamberg said. "Every single person as part of this team gave valuable input into what the project should be. We didn't just share knowledge but co-created new understandings on how to help Nevada students do better in math."

During the week-long professional-development workshops, teachers learned math from the perspective of a student. They spent time refining pedagogical skills through the Standards for Mathematical Practice by implementing a whole class discussion framework.

"We are not reinventing mathematics in this program, but simply giving teachers many more options in how they present the content to the students," Jeffery Cramer, math and science coordinator at Northeastern Nevada Regional Professional Development Program, said. "The more models we use, the more students we can reach."

Another key component to the Nevada Mathematics Project develops teacher leaders who can support other teachers and their districts in mathematics education. These leaders were provided with tools to communicate with one another throughout the year. This enhances state-wide collaboration among math teachers as they continue to implement the content standards and go about new ways of teaching.

"There has been so much negative press about common core," Edward Keppelmann, College of Science coordinator for K-12 outreach at the University of Nevada, Reno, said. "To mathematicians and math educators, the math common core encourages us to think deeply and diversely about the math we do."

As part of this program, teacher professional development focused on providing many different models to use and help students with the concepts of mathematics. One model might touch one student while another model might touch another student in the same way. During the trainings, many models were presented and explored by the teachers so they received a clear understanding of their use.    

"We stressed that the students should understand the concepts of the number operations before they learn any algorithms," Cramer said. "This is in direct alignment with the number and operations strands in Nevada Academic Standards mathematics."  

The Nevada Mathematics Project includes representatives from the University of Nevada, Reno; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Northeastern Nevada Regional Professional Development Program; Western Regional Professional Development Program; Nevada Department of Education and each of the state's school districts. The project is funded through the Nevada Science Partnership Grant through the Nevada Department of Education and would, by the end of three years, cover the entire Nevada Academic Content Standards for mathematics.

To learn more about the Nevada Mathematics Project, including the people involved, visit nevadamathproject.com

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