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Math Learning Center Receives Award for Education Innovations

By Michael Pape

The 2007 Siemens Foundation Founder’s Award was presented to Texas Mathworks, a center for innovation in mathematics education at Texas State.

Mathworks develops model programs and self-sustaining learning communities that engage elementary through high school students in high level mathematics.

The annual $15,000 award recognizes individuals or schools for encouraging students to participate in math, science or technology research programs.

“This is certainly one of the most prestigious awards,” said Max Warshauer, founder and director of Mathworks.  “We feel very honored to receive the Siemens Founder’s Award, particularly since they only recognize one program or person in the country each year.”

Mathworks’ dedication to success has earned state and national merits before, such as the 2001 Texas Star Award from Gov. Perry and the 2001 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Math and Engineering Mentoring.

Warshauer said Mathworks challenges math’s boring, sterile image by integrating creativity in their approach to math education.

“Often math homework is boring when it is just drill work,” Warshauer said.  “Mathworks Socratic teaching system encourages students to view math differently by giving them difficult problems to explore rather than procedures to mimic.  They experience first-hand the joy of making new discoveries.”

Beth Pearce, summer camp coordinator for Mathworks, said the program offers a way to escape the heat of the Hill Country summer.

“Currently, we have two math camps every summer,” Pearce said.  “Our Junior Summer Math Camp is for students going into grades 4 through 8.  The Honors Camp (for high school students) is an extremely intensive six-week program for students that are gifted in math.”

Math camp gives students time to explore and discover mathematical principles than they would have in traditional classes.

“During the junior camp, the teachers often encourage the kids to get out of their desks,” Pearce said.  “I love walking down the hall and watching the kids make huge graphs out of tape, or run up and down a life-size number line to learn positive and negative integers.  I enjoy watching the kids have fun while learning math, even if they don’t realize that they are learning.”

Teaching children is core to Mathworks’ principles, but Pearce said they instruct future math teachers, giving them the tools and insights to help them reach students.

“I love to see my students realize that they have figured out a new idea, and develop the confidence to make significant contributions in the future,” Warshauer said.  “I also love to see the students working together as a team, with the students each learning from one another.”

This article appeared in the January 30, 2008 edition of The University Star, a publication of Texas State University.