Andrew Baxter, a Lecturer in the Mathematics Department played an integral role in the launching of the Pennsylvania Math Initiative lead by Dr. George Andrews. Andrew was one of the two instructors at the inaugural PMI teacher workshop for elementary school teachers that was based on a model developed at the University of Vermont by Dr. Ken Gross, founder of the Vermont Math Initiative.
The Pennsylvania Math Initiative
"At the college level, we are dependent on high-quality teachers at the elementary and secondary grades. Their students will become our students, and so it is in our best interest to offer content-based professional development so that they can teach outside what the textbook presents and with a greater fluency in the subject."
Working with PMI will impact my practices in my normal classroom. I often teach Math 035, which is a general education math course for humanities majors. Many of these students are math-phobic, which is also common among elementary educators who tend to favor language arts. The intense contact with the PMI participants brought into focus the difference in aesthetic senses between mathematicians and non-mathematicians. The abstraction that a mathematician prizes turns away others, while what a mathematician may deem “dull” can excite the imaginations of non-mathematicians. This new aesthetic sense has lead me to more informed decisions about what examples to use and what topics to include.
The PMI has also helped me develop my use of inquiry-based learning, as that is the basis of the Vermont Mathematics Initiative's approach. I now have a better understanding of how to craft materials to facilitate inquiry-based learning, as well as how to better guide the resulting discussions. When I teach my “Geometry for Future Teachers” course in the Spring, I intend to use more inquiry-based learning, both for its inherent advantages as well as to model good practices for students who themselves will be teachers at the secondary level.