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Rutgers lead on $10m NSF grant for urban math instruction

October 09, 2003

NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY , N.J. - Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, will be the lead recipient of up to $10 million over five years from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct a project focused on improving urban students' understanding of mathematics. Rutgers' partners in the project are The City University of New York Graduate Center and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as the school districts of New York City, Newark and Plainfield, N.J., and Philadelphia. The diverse partnership includes specialists in mathematics, mathematics education, cognitive science, urban studies and urban education.

"MetroMath: The Center for Mathematics in America's Cities" is designed to discover how urban children learn mathematics, to equip urban teachers with the most effective instructional strategies and to leverage existing resources in urban communities to help children learn. It will also seek to develop a research-based model for successful mathematics education that can be used in urban schools across the country.

"A substantial number of urban students do not attain the mathematical skills and understanding needed for success in today's world," said Joseph G. Rosenstein, a Rutgers mathematics professor and principal investigator on the project. "Strategies that work for teachers and students in other environments may not work best in the cities. We need to know what does work."

Co-principal investigators include Jean Anyon, professor of urban education at the CUNY Graduate Center; Gerald A. Goldin, professor of mathematics, physics and mathematics education at Rutgers; Janine Remillard, assistant professor of mathematics education at Penn; and Roberta Y. Schorr, associate professor of mathematics education at Rutgers-Newark.

At Rutgers, the project is co-sponsored by the Center for Mathematics, Science, and Computer Education; the Graduate School of Education in New Brunswick; as well as the Faculty of Arts and Sciences-New Brunswick and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences-Newark.

The center, which will function principally online, will receive $2 million each year for up to five years. It will offer two-year seminars and mentored internships for 50 graduate students and 100 teachers, each of whom will earn a special certificate. The seminars will be aimed at developing teachers' knowledge of mathematics and their understanding of how it is learned and how it may best be taught. It will also seek to enhance their leadership skills and understanding of urban communities and to prepare them for career advancement. To prepare teachers for these graduate-level seminars, the center will offer professional development programs for more than 300 teachers.

The center will involve the urban communities in supporting mathematics education by soliciting parents to help in mathematics instruction and to advocate for strong schools in their communities. Churches and civic associations will be tapped to promote successful mathematics learning, an approach that has worked in literacy campaigns in the past.

"If we make mathematics more accessible to community leaders," Rosenstein observed, "they can encourage parents to become mathematical resources in the schools. We need to overcome adults' fears of topics like fractions, which is a gateway to future learning in mathematics, science, and other subjects and careers."

"Rutgers is committed to helping improve the mathematical abilities of children in our cities," said Philip Furmanski, Rutgers' executive vice president for academic affairs. "Development of these skills is essential in ensuring that our children will succeed in an increasingly competitive and demanding global environment. This program is just one of many that illustrates Rutgers' commitment to the children, families and communities of New Jersey."

Rutgers University

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