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Associate Teaching Professor Cyndi Edgington, Assistant Professors Robin Anderson and Ruby Ellis Will Prepare Pre-service Educators to Teach Mathematics in Diverse Settings Through Grant-funded Project

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A group of faculty members in NC State’s College of Education are hoping to challenge the perception that mathematics teaching and learning is a one-size-fits-all approach through work on a new, grant-funded project. 

“The Design and Refinement of Modules for Raising Critical Consciousness in Undergraduate Mathematics Teacher Preparation” is funded by a $399,041 National Science Foundation IUSE grant awarded to Associate Teaching Professor Cyndi Edgington, Assistant Professors Robin Anderson and Ruby Ellis and faculty from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Pennsylvania State University. The College of Education will receive $198,227 of the overall funding amount. 

The goal of the project is to advance knowledge about how to best support prospective secondary mathematics teachers in developing the knowledge, skills and dispositions to teach in diverse settings as well as to increase access to research-based resources for mathematics teacher educators. 

“Ensuring pre-service teachers are well-prepared to teach in diverse settings and inspire all students in STEM is essential for multiple reasons. Most notably, it’s pivotal in addressing the long-standing issues of equity and inclusion in education,” Ellis said. “By equipping teachers to engage students from diverse backgrounds effectively, we take a significant step toward rectifying disparities in educational opportunities and outcomes.”

Equity issues in mathematics education, Ellis said, have been persistent and often result in students from various backgrounds being subjected to different access to opportunities and held to different sets of academic expectations. 

For example, Edgington said, research shows that Black and Brown students, students with individualized educational plans (IEPs) and multilingual learners are more likely to be excluded from honors mathematics classes and placed in classrooms that are more likely to emphasize procedural learning over conceptual understanding. 

Additionally, Ellis said, a lot of mathematics teaching and learning takes a one-size-fits-all approach, which does not provide accommodations for students from diverse backgrounds and can leave those students feeling disconnected and excluded from the learning process. 

“This leaves these groups of students without the experiences or the desire to pursue STEM-related careers or study STEM fields at the postsecondary level,” Edgington said. 

To address these issues, the project team will use improvement science methods to design and implement a series of modules for prospective mathematics teachers that include readings, reflections and out-of-class activities to support engaged student learning. 

Once the modules are developed, refined and implemented at NC State, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Pennsylvania State University, they will be shared with teacher educators through the Mathematics Teacher Education Partnership – which includes 65 programs – for further refinement before being made publicly available to all mathematics teacher educators. 

The project team will also study the impact on pre-service teachers’ knowledge, skills and dispositions by examining how participation in the modules influence prospective teachers’ multicultural mathematics dispositions and understandings related to cultural sensitivity as well as how experiences with the modules created changes in their critical consciousness. 

“Ultimately, we hope these modules will challenge the perception that mathematics, and mathematics learning, is one-size-fits-all. Instead, we hope pre-service teachers will see the complexities within the discipline and multiplicities of identities in their students, to appreciate that mathematics teaching must be broadened to make room for more ideas and voices,” Anderson said.