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Education & Teaching

$1.5-Million NSF Grant to Fund First D.C. Math for America Fellows at American University

By Maggie Barrett

National Science Foundation $1.5 million grant will fund first D.C. Math for America fellows at American University.

National Science Foundation $1.5 million grant will bring more highly qualified math teachers to D.C. public secondary schools.

In mathematical terms, one might say the need for skilled math teachers > (is greater than) the number of skilled math teachers in Washington, D.C., public schools.

According to the 2007 results of the National Assessment of Student Progress, only 9 percent of eighth-grade students in D.C. public schools qualified as proficient or above proficient in mathematics. And the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent for Education reports that only 43 percent of “core subjects” mathematics lessons in D.C. public schools are taught by qualified teachers.

A $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation supporting a new partnership between Math for America D.C.(MfA D.C.) and American University will help turn the situation around. The goal is to ensure the availability of qualified mathematics teachers for D.C.’s public and public charter secondary schools. 

“AU has a long history of educating and placing exceptional teachers in Washington, D.C., schools,” said Sarah Irvine Belson, dean of AU’s School of Education, Teaching, and Health (SETH). “Partnering with Math for America strengthens our connection to D.C. schools and underlines AU’s commitment to serving our community.”  

AU is one of only 10 universities in four cities across the nation—and the only one in the D.C. area—to partner with Math for America, a program launched by the Carnegie Academy for Science Education (CASE) in 2008.

“This support from the NSF will be a huge boost for math education in D.C.,” said Maxine Singer, Carnegie president emeriti and principal investigator on the grant. “Research shows that rigorous mathematics education in secondary school correlates with success in jobs and college.”

The grant, made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, covers tuition, stipend, and mentoring costs for the first 14 fellows who are college graduates with degrees in mathematics or related disciplines. The fellows were selected on a competitive basis for acceptance into the MfA D.C. program.

As program partner, AU—through SETH and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics in the College of Arts and Sciences—will provide the fellows with an intense graduate education. Upon completion, the fellows earn an MA in secondary school math teaching and certification to teach in D.C. schools.  

The fellows commit to teach in D.C. public and public charter secondary schools for four years after completing their training. During those four years, each fellow will have a personal mentor, ongoing professional development activities, and a supplementary stipend to support them as new classroom teachers. The MfA DC program plans to recruit 34 fellows between 2009 and 2013.

James H. Simons, mathematician and president of Renaissance Technologies Corporation, founded Math for America in 2004 “to improve the quality of mathematics education in the country’s public schools by recruiting, training, and retaining effective secondary school mathematics teachers.”