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Meadows Foundation grant aims to multiply math skills

Date released: 01/20/04

SAN MARCOS – The numbers game in Texas just got a big boost.

Striving to increase the number of certified math teachers in the state and improve the math abilities of middle school students, The Meadows Foundation has awarded a $244,000 grant to Texas State University-San Marcos to help make these goals a reality. The grant is a partnership involving Mathworks, the Departments of Mathematics and Curriculum and Instruction, and the San Marcos CISD. Mathworks is a center at Texas State University that develops innovative programs for students and teachers in mathematics.

“Math is like a gatekeeper for all kinds of careers,” explained Mathworks director Max Warshauer, Ph.D. “It’s also a big problem for students today. In our public schools, 40-50 percent of the students cannot pass the end of course algebra exam.

“Students who have a good foundation in math are good problem solvers and have careers open to them in science, technology, engineering, medicine, etc.,” he said. “For our country to continue to be a leader in science and technology requires students to have firm foundation in math. This means teaching the students how to think creatively and solve problems carefully and precisely. They need to be prepared to use math in a wide variety of areas.”

The goals of the grant are ambitious but attainable, said Warshauer. The program aims, over a three-year period, to increase the number of math certified teachers graduating from Texas State annually from 80 to 160; to increase the mathematics ability of all 800 teachers projected to graduate from Texas State; to train 17 fifth- and sixth-grade math teachers as master math teachers and mentors; to better prepare fifth- and sixth-graders to take algebra and more advanced math courses; to provide math programs to at least 2,000 fifth- and sixth-grade students over a three-year period; to annually serve 128 fifth- and sixth-grade students through intensive after-school programs and at least 192 students in intensive summer math programs. San Marcos CISD and Texas State will develop “Math Inquiry Groups” at Hernandez Intermediate School, where undergraduates, university faculty and teachers work together with students to form a community interested and excited about mathematics.

“Mathworks is a link between the math and education programs here at Texas State,” Warshauer said. “Perhaps the most unique characteristic is that it weaves together pre-service undergraduate teachers and in-service teachers with summer math camps and school-year programs.

“This is a very natural fit. With the Meadows grant we will be able to encourage more undergraduates to enter a career in teaching mathematics, while at the same time to help schools by providing more mentors in school districts,” he said. “The mentoring program functions at several levels. The middle-school students are mentored by pre-service undergraduates. These students are mentored by in-service teachers in the schools, and the teachers interact with our faculty at the university.”

Under the Meadows grant, Mathworks will also develop Discovery Learning Labs at Texas State and at Hernandez Intermediate, which will help encourage the formation of a community among students, undergraduates and teachers to explore mathematics in depth and raise the mathematic level of all participants.

The Meadows Foundation is a private philanthropic institution established in 1948 by Algur H. and Virginia Meadows to benefit the people of Texas. The Foundation’s mission is to assist people and institutions of Texas improve the quality and circumstances of life for themselves and future generations.

Since its inception, the Foundation’s assets have grown to a current value in excess of $750 million, and it has dispersed more than $470 million in grants and direct charitable expenditures to more than 2,000 Texas institutions and agencies. Foundation grants support work in the fields of art and culture, civic and public affairs, education, health and human services. For more information about the Meadows Foundation, visit the website at http://www.mfi.org.