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NSF awards $300,000 to Five College–led collaboration

(May 12, 2011) ? A new, Five College-led collaboration of K-12 school districts, higher education institutions, and nonprofit organizations has received a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to improve mathematics teaching in kindergarten through college in Massachusetts' Pioneer Valley.

The Western Massachusetts Mathematics Project (WMMP) is the latest project of the 27-year-old Five College Schools Partnership. WMMP comprises seven public school districts in western Massachusetts and mathematics faculty members from Springfield College, Holyoke Community College, Greenfield Community College, Western New England University, Westfield State University and the member institutions of Five Colleges (Hampshire, Amherst, Mt. Holyoke, and Smith Colleges and University of Massachusetts). The SummerMath program at Mount Holyoke and the Commonwealth Alliance for Information Technology Education (CAITE) are also participating.

While math scores among schoolchildren from poor and minority backgrounds continue to lag behind those of middle-class and white students in western Massachusetts, the number of certified math teachers coming out of local college programs is stuck in the single digits. The WMMP will look at all aspects of the problem, from teacher preparation and classroom instruction to professional development, to determine the best opportunities for improvement.

The heart of the WMMP will be five working groups, organized around curriculum, equity and diversity, instruction and professional development, teacher preparation, and innovation. Each group will collect and analyze information in its area over the first year. In the second year, the working groups will develop an evidence-based project design for improving mathematics education and preparing new teachers.

"What's important now is that we have in place the process for determining where the problems are," says Sue Thrasher, coordinator of the Five College School Partnership. "We've brought together sixty people from seven school districts, six colleges and three universities who are committed to working together to figure this out."

The National Science Foundation's Math and Science Partnership program (MSP) funds teams composed of institutions of higher education, local K-12 school systems and their partners through competitive, merit-based grants.

Based in Amherst, Massachusetts, Five Colleges, Inc., is a nonprofit educational consortium created in 1965 to advance the extensive educational and cultural objectives of its member institutions?Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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