University of Rochester

$2.4 Million Grant to Warner School Aims for Deeper Knowledge of Math

October 24, 2002

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $2.4 million grant to the Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the University of Rochester. The grant aims to increase the math knowledge of teachers, parents, and community members so that they can help K-12 children develop a deeper, more useful understanding of mathematics.

Judith Fonzi, director of the Warner Center for Professional Development and Education Reform, will lead the five-year project. The grant, one of only 24 in the nation, will prepare educators, families, and community members to help K-12 children improve their abilities to recognize mathematical situations, to reason mathematically, and to compute accurately.

Teachers and administrators in the Greece, Penfield, and Rush-Henrietta school districts had already been collaborating with Fonzi for more than three years to examine and refine their K-12 mathematics programs. Those educators and the Warner Center committed themselves to the goal of guaranteeing every student a high quality mathematics education, then began to identify the components of an improved mathematics education program to meet this goal. They analyzed the needs of their own students and read the reports of government task forces and business leaders.

As classroom practices began to change, students started to pose new mathematical questions that sparked teachers' interests in expanding their own understanding of mathematics; they responded by asking for deeper mathematics education themselves. The NSF-funded grant proposal reflected that need as well as the need to provide opportunities for parents, other school professionals, and community members to learn more about mathematics to support their children's learning.

Educators at the Genesee Valley Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), a state-delineated group of 23 rural school districts that share support services, joined the collaboration after it was established. They had been seeking a partnership that could help them meet their need to prepare teachers to help all children learn. They believed the mathematics partnership would help them reach that goal.

The three districts and Genesee Valley BOCES are all partners with the Warner School on this grant, aided by the University of Rochester mathematics department, which will help create new professional development experiences. Using research-based methods and materials that engage students directly in doing math, teachers are creating learning environments where students explore, conjecture, and test their mathematical ideas.

"Inviting students to be active learners has been really exciting for the students, teachers, parents and those of us fortunate enough to be involved in this work," says Fonzi. "The students are demonstrating incredible reasoning abilities and are really challenging how we think about mathematics. Together we are discovering that mathematics is a way of thinking about the world which encompasses reasoning, computation, and creativity."