NSF Renews Math-Science Partnership Grant

Contact: Ralph Derickson

Photo #1 of students studing math in UK's Mathskellar in the basement of the Patterson Office Tower.
Photo #2 of students studing math in UK's Mathskellar in the basement of the Patterson Office Tower.
(photos by Joan Shropshire)
Students study math in UK’s Mathskellar in the basement of the Patterson Office Tower.

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“A unique effort in the AMSP project is that school principals and counselors are involved in leadership development to improve the quality of science and math education in their schools and to learn ways to encourage students to take higher level math and science courses to facilitate their transition from high school to college.”

-- Wimberly Royster,
director,
Appalachian Mathematics and Science Partnership

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 12, 2004) -- The National Science Foundation (NSF) has renewed for the fourth year a grant the University of Kentucky used to establish its Appalachian Mathematics and Science Partnership (AMSP) of nine colleges and universities and 51 school districts. The grant is aimed at improving math and science education in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in Appalachian school districts in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

The renewal, totaling $5.7 million, brings the funding level to $13.7 million in a five-year program that has total NSF-committed funding of $22.5 million, said Wimberly C. Royster, AMSP director. With this latest commitment that began Oct. 1, NSF funding of the project is expected to continue through September 2007.

“The university is delighted that the NSF has reviewed our project efforts to date and has approved continued funding of this extremely important program,” said UK Provost Michael T. Nietzel. “We truly believe we can help close the gap in math and science teaching and learning in Appalachia with concentrated efforts like this.”

Royster said the statistics on participation by teachers and students in the NSF-funded program – the largest grant-supported project of its kind in the university’s history – has been truly phenomenal.

During the summers of 2003 and 2004, the AMSP has engaged in over 30 mathematics and science teacher institutes intended to give 500 K-12 teachers enhanced teaching skills. An additional nine Partnership Enhancement Projects involving 18 partner school districts and higher education partners have been funded to meet specific needs of the school districts, Royster noted.

Including students, teachers and others, AMSP programs have now reached some 3,100 persons, said Don Long, AMSP project associate.

“A unique effort in the AMSP project,” Royster added, “is that school principals and counselors are involved in leadership development to improve the quality of science and math education in their schools and to learn ways to encourage students to take higher level math and science courses to facilitate their transition from high school to college.”

Royster also pointed out that within each Appalachian school district in the AMSP program, focal or model schools have been selected to receive concentrated resources allowing them to improve their math and science efforts and develop techniques that can be shared with other AMSP school districts.

Another special feature of the UK program is that university professors from several disciplines have the outreach effort of AMSP as part of their specific assignments.

The Explorer Program, a very strong AMSP project, is designed to entice college and university students to consider math and science teaching as a career. Seventeen students from UK and Morehead State University are participating in the Explorer Program.

The Explorers hold regular hours in UK’s Mathskellar, a study room for math students in UK’s Patterson Office Tower. Jonathan Ross, a senior at UK from Shelbyville, Ky., majoring in mathematical economics, is a fan of the AMSP Explorer Program. “It is such a good opportunity for undergrads to get a glimpse into the world of teaching math,” Ross said.

Ross, who spends about 10-15 hours a week tutoring students in a variety of math classes from algebra to matrix algebra to calculus, noted, “I try to pick up on which teaching strategies are most effective because it is all in how you present the material to the students. A really good teacher will find the least complicated or most understandable way to present the material to his or her students.” 

Another Explorer, Adam Keach from Henderson, Ky., and a graduate of Henderson County High School, intends to be a mathematics teacher. He said the Explorer program “has given me a unique opportunity to gain experience in teaching mathematics, not only out of class through grading papers and tutoring individuals or small groups but also in class through leading a discussion involving working problems and explaining solutions.”

“In many cases a student doesn't begin to gain teaching experience until after graduation,” Keach added, “but this program allows undergraduates interested in a teaching career to garner valuable experience years before it would normally be possible.”


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