Bradley University and Peoria School District join forces to aid math teachers

February 6, 2012

By Steven Johnson ‘13

Bradley University, in conjunction with the Peoria Public School District 150, Lakeview Museum and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has been awarded a $140,000 grant from the Illinois Math and Science Partnership to develop and implement a program to aid up to 25 local middle school and high school math teachers to engage their students in inquiry-based math activities. 

The grant runs through the current fiscal year and is eligible for additional funding in the next fiscal year cycle.

“This  grant from the Illinois State Board of Education from federal Math Science Partnership funds will provide 25 Peoria School District 150 middle and secondary teachers an opportunity to enhance their knowledge of functions while investigating ways to infuse inquiry-based instruction into their mathematics classrooms,” said Dr. Robert Wolffe, a professor in the teacher education department at Bradley.

“This is an exciting chance for Bradley’s STEM Education Center to help local teachers provide new, research-based learning opportunities to their students.”

The program focuses on building middle and high school teachers’ content knowledge of mathematical functions. Teachers will receive direct instruction in the theory and applications of elementary and algebraic functions; will learn to utilize TI-Nspires to support student inquiry and will develop, implement and assess inquiry lessons on functions through the context of space and climate science.

“We are going to give explicit training to the teachers about how to teach math using inquiry based methodologies,” said Dr. Kelly McConnaughay, associate dean of the Department of Biology at Bradley. “Students can actually explore the application of math to very specific science contexts.

“The idea here is that not very many students appreciate what math can do for you. What we’re trying to do is help teachers put down a framework for students to show how mathematics can be useful.”

Bradley also plans to get the teachers and later, their students, into a planetarium to see how the math applies to space science.

“I think that kind of exploration will be catalytic for some students who question what they will get out of solving an equation,” said Dr. McConnaughay. “That’s where we are trying to move our teachers who will be involved in this program. Why math? What does it help you do?”

The program will start this summer and focus on math content and skills development, experience using the TI-Nspires as inquiry tools, and exploring the use of math content in space and climate science curricula.