Half of a Million Dollars and Two Years

The California Education Mathematics and Science Professional Learning Initiative (CEMSPLI) has awarded half of a million dollar grant to an initiative titled Transforming Lives: the Mathematics Leadership Institute. The grant effort is a partnership between University of Redlands, Moreno Valley Unified School District, Riverside County Office of Education, the UCLA Curtis Center, and the National Association of Elementary School Principals. The partnership, lead by Dr. Jose Lalas and Deepika Srivastava, will be spending two years helping to change the culture of trepidation around learning, teaching, and exploring mathematics.

A group of 25 teachers, with a multiple subject credential, were provided with 12 units of math classes at UCLA for this project. In the beginning, Srivastava said, the teachers genuinely struggled with, not just the concepts, but with the amount of involvement required. For every one to four hours of class time, there was an additional five hours of homework and studying on top of their everyday teaching duties and personal lives. Some teachers felt there was a condescending air to the classes and they felt insecure about their work.

“They struggled. They persevered,” Srivastava said. “They enjoy the process now. Their math knowledge has exploded.” With their newfound familiarity with the process behind the theories, Srivasta said it changed the way the educators present math to their students. In adapting their own approach to learning, they have changed how their students approach the concepts as well.

A recent activity shows an example of the new process of student learning. Students were given a problem, they took individual time to think, then came together as a group to discuss and share their ideas. Students showed independent thought, collaboration, and were able to lead their own discussion of math processes.

Srivastava explained that there are no instant results, but the partnership expects to see significant improvement in API scores after a year and a half. For now, the teachers are building the groundwork for a shift. They are changing their approach from finding the right answer, to exploring the fun and possibilities in teaching concepts and collaboration. Creating a positive relationship for teachers and students with mathematics shows a promising beginning for the recipients of the CEMSPLI grant.