A new Math Teachers’ Circle in North Louisiana as been officially launched as part of a new initiative that empowers middle school math teachers to bring new excitement and interest in mathematics to their students.
The inaugural meeting of the North Louisiana Math Teachers Circle (NLMTC) had its inaugural meeting on Nov. 8 at the LSUS University Center. Forty area middle school teachers, four school administrators and five college faculty members attended.
The inaugural session was lead by Patricia Jones and Catherine McKay, retired faculty members from University of Louisiana Lafayette. Funding for the meeting was provided by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute’s National Association of Math Circles grant program and by the Educational Advancement Foundation.
In July, a team from North Louisiana joined six groups from around the country in Washington D.C. to participate in a weeklong workshop organized by The American Institute of Mathematics (AIM). The purpose was to prepare each team to launch its own local Math Teachers’ Circle. Members of the team were: Judith Covington, LSUS; Tanya Sullivan-McGee, Bossier Parish; Amanda Wall, Caddo Parish; and Lakeshia Cooper, Desoto Parish, along with LSUS faculty members, Wanda Huhn and Patricia Doerr.
Math Teachers’ Circles are collaborations between professional mathematicians, middle school math teachers, and school administrators. In a Math Teachers’ Circle, teachers experience open-ended problem-solving firsthand in lively discussion sessions led by mathematicians. By enriching teachers’ own experiences of mathematics, the Math Teachers’ Circle program hopes to affect their classroom teaching so that it includes more problem-solving, a key component in student learning and engagement in mathematics.
The Math Teachers’ Circle program began at AIM in August 2006, when 25 middle school mathematics teachers and 5 professional mathematicians from the San Francisco Bay Area came together for an intense week of work at AIM. Monthly meetings followed, both at AIM and at the home schools of some of the teachers. Based on the sustained success of the original Circle, AIM sought to create Math Teachers’ Circles throughout the U.S.
The Math Teachers’ Circle program focuses on teachers, but it is hoped that students will benefit as well. “Working with the teachers allows us to reach many more students,” said AIM Executive Director Brian Conrey. “Mathematicians are a wonderful resource for teachers, providing a model for the problem-solving nature of mathematics.”
“Our focus is on problem-solving and learning how to craft solutions to problems,” said Joshua Zucker, one of the organizers of the AIM workshop. He went on to explain, “An exercise is something where you already know what to do and you just have to go through the motions. Exercises are boring. A problem is a challenge where you have to first figure out how to approach it. That is what we want students to learn, and the Circle helps the teachers bring this into the classroom.”
The Math Teachers’ Circle program is a project of the American Institute of Mathematics and is sponsored by the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Society of America, the Educational Advancement Foundation, Math for America, the National Science Foundation, and the National Security Agency.