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Grants Boost Teaching Practices

ledford.jpgBOONE — There is a state and national need to increase the training of teachers in mathematics and science, say Appalachian State University professors concerned about reports that American children’s math and science knowledge declines as they edge toward high school.

Appalachian faculty are helping reverse that trend through six new teacher workshops funded by federal Dwight D. Eisenhower Professional Development grants.

American 8th graders performed lower than 17 nations in science and 19 nations in math out of 38 countries, according to a report released in December by The National Center for Education Statistics as a follow-up to the 1995 Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). That same group had performed better as 4th graders in the original study.

“The TIMSS study shows that in the fourth grade students are competing pretty well. In the 8th grade, they start dropping down and by the time they’re seniors in high school they’re

performing miserably compared to students in many other nations,” says Dr. Steve Dyche, director of Appalachian’s Math and Science Education Center.

“In North Carolina, the state doesn’t include science in end-of-year testing, so a lot of teachers may not teach it and in some cases their principals may even encourage them not to teach it,” Dyche continues. “Some wait until the last two weeks of school when the pressure is off.”

To help ensure that teachers in Northwest North Carolina can effectively teach math and science at various grade levels, Appalachian’s MSEC serves nearly 700 teachers through more than 40 workshops a year.

Five new Dwight D. Eisenhower Professional Development grants to the MSEC, plus a sixth grant to the Department of Mathematics, will boost those numbers to nearly 900 teachers. Each federal grant is worth about $30,000.

Appalachian faculty will lead on-campus workshops this spring and summer for teachers in 18 school districts. The workshops present science and math activities that teachers can use in the classroom, and they pay for materials to help students learn. The activities and materials meet state and national curriculum standards.

The new grants are as follows:

  • Math Smorgasbord for Teachers Grades 3-6, written by Dr. Betty Long, Department of Mathematical Sciences—acquaints teachers to three nationally known projects that include hands-on activities, computers, calculators and other materials: Activities Integrating Mathematics and Sciences (AIMS), Teach-Stat and Investigations in Number, Data and Space.

  • Using Lorna’s Sun Bottle: Activities With Weather and Light for Teachers K-3, written by chemistry faculty Dr. Dale Wheeler and Samuella B. Sigmann—introduces teachers to a new book with lesson plans, classroom discussion materials, and homework assignments covering weather and light. Materials include graphing software.

  • Integrating Social Studies and Science, Grades 4-8, written by Dr. Michael Jacobson, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and Dr. Steve Dyche, MSEC—helps teachers develop activities linking social studies and science, such as examining a stream for evidence of pollution, or visiting a cemetery to gather demographics.

  • Inquiry Kit Based Science for Burke County Schools, Grades K-5, written by Dr. Steve Dyche, MSEC—shows teachers how to use the kits STC, FOSS and TRACS (recommended by the American Physics Society, N.C. Department of Public Instruction and the state’s Math and Science Education Network) and helps them develop a five-year plan for implementing them. This program started in July 2000 and continues through June.

  • Preparing Teacher Trainers for Investigations in Number, Data and Space, written by Dr. Steve Dyche, MSEC—targets 16 area K-5 teachers who can later assist teachers in region’s 52 low performing schools to use the Investigations program to improve student performance in mathematics. This program was developed from ideas shared by local teachers.

  • Math Education Leadership Training, Grades 7-12, written by Dr. Greg Foley, Appalachian’s Distinguished Chair of Mathematics Education—prepares teachers to meet the state’s new math curriculum and exam criteria, and meet new national teaching standards in algebra, geometry and advanced placement statistics. This program emphasizes use of hand-held technology, such as graphing calculators.

Foley says his workshops are especially helpful because of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s new requirement that all students take algebra in high school with an end-of-course exam, and use new hand-held technology like graphing calculators. This presents new challenges to North Carolina teachers.

“They need help to do a good job,” he says.

The Eisenhower-grant funded workshops are offered free of charge. Teachers receive stipends and recertification credits.

“Many Appalachian faculty used to be public school teachers and they like working with teachers and their students. That’s the long-standing tradition of Appalachian,” Dyche says.

For registration information, contact Dr. Steve Dyche at MSEC at (828) 262-3185 or


Picture Caption: Carolyn Ledford, a teacher at Catawba County’s Riverbend Middle School, and a student participate in last summer’s Women in Math program, one of more than 40 workshops sponsored each year by Appalachian’s Math and Science Education Center. (Photo courtesy of MSEC)