On campus and out in the community, the Teacher Education Department (TED) supports innovative math-related initiatives and partnerships.
PREPARING QUALITY TEACHERS
As an undergraduate student pursuing a math degree at UNO, Dario Gudino grabbed a unique opportunity that guided him into the field of education.
"I assisted with a class at Metropolitan Community College (MCC) where the majority of students were from minority populations and struggled with mathematic content," explained Dario, now a math teacher at Bryan High School and graduate of the NebraskaMATH Omaha Noyce Partnership.
"I really connected with the students and enjoyed what I was doing. I also know they benefited from having someone like me there with them."
Funded by a $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, UNO Noyce Scholars pursue careers as culturallyresponsive math teachers in high-need secondary schools while receiving scholarships, research opportunities, internships, and mentorship. The scholars graduate with dual degrees in Math and Education.
"Our program is a student- and community-centered collaboration between MCC and UNO focused on increasing the number of highly-qualified secondary math teachers," said Assistant Professor and Principal Investigator of the grant, Dr. Kelly Gomez Johnson.
"Being successful in college and beyond takes more than coursework. Our program creates a community of learners who support each other, the campus, and our community and have long-lasting networks of faculty and peers to turn to as they start their teaching careers."
CREATING INNOVATIVE COURSES
TED faculty members are developing courses to connect UNO students with real-world application of mathematics and STEM. The new courses benefit both aspiring educators and students fulfilling general education requirements.
In Dr. Derrick Nero's Science Experiments & Engineering Design course, students work together to create near-space experiments which they launch using a high-altitude balloon.
"In order to teach others, you need to know how to do it yourself, so a class like this is valuable for education students so they can have a solid foundation in STEM practices," said Nero.
Through recent NSF grant funding, Dr. Michelle Friend has developed several general education math courses. One new course incorporates Service Learning, pairing UNO students with local nonprofits to solve real-world, organizational problems, while giving students critical workforce skills such as data literacy and collaboration.
"Many students in general education math courses have 'math anxiety' and a history of terrible experiences with math courses," said Friend.
"Innovation in these courses at UNO helps people see that math can be fun and interesting, provide applicable valuable skills in many settings, and can lead to great career opportunities."
PROVIDING STATEWIDE SUPPORT
Throughout Nebraska, a new program is strengthening students' understanding and perception of math, and UNO is involved. The Nebraska Math Readiness Project, a program that helps struggling high school students develop stronger math skills before college, is a collaboration between six community colleges, 35 high schools, and UNO. The UNO team, headed by CEHHS Associate Dean Neal Grandgenett, oversees the statewide program evaluation.
"We're early in the project, but it's showing a good trajectory," said Grandgenett. "For example, only 7.9% of the students passed a fractions test before joining the project, but 83% passed it as the class progressed."
Grandgenett continues, "Math preparedness among many students is a historical and national problem. Math is necessary, not just to get through college, but to perform well in many activities and occupations like cooking, construction, automotive work, and nursing. Developmental Mathematics is everybody’s business."
Read more about the Math Readiness Project at Omaha.com >>
This story appeared in the most recent issue of the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences Annual Report.