Since 2001, a group nested within the University of Arizona’s math department has been working with southern Arizona educators to improve math teaching and learning in the area’s schools.
The University of Arizona Center for Recruitment and Retention of Mathematics Teachers (CRR) wants to ensure that every elementary, middle and high school student has an excellent math teacher.
They’re helping to attract and prepare mathematically talented college students to become mathematics teachers, while also retaining and supporting mathematics teachers currently in the classroom.
And there’s a big need for it. Arizona schools continue to struggle with a shortage of qualified teachers; enrollment at teaching colleges has declined and many new teachers are leaving the profession after only a few years. And according to the Arizona Education Progress Meter, only two-thirds of Pima County eighth graders are prepared to be successful in high school math.
The CRR grew out of a recognition of the lack of community-building opportunities for teachers, as well as the challenges that districts faced in creating quality professional development. By pooling their resources, the University and districts were able to create this valuable resource, which has grown significantly over the years.
The organization offers a wide variety of programs, including:
- The Mathematics Educator Appreciation Day (MEAD) Conference: It’s the state’s largest K-16 math conference and it brings together 600 teachers for more than 100 engaging sessions, including nationally recognized speakers. These sessions cover everything from early number sense to active learning in calculus and using technology to explore statistics.
- Student Thinking Enrichment through Mathematics Mentors (STEMM) – An AmeriCorps program: CRR works to identify students at the University of Arizona who have a talent for math. They’re recruited to assist in local middle and high school classrooms by tutoring and mentoring students. Every year, about 40 University students work in 25 Tucson classrooms and contribute 300 hours of work each. And many are even inspired to change their major and pursue teaching as a career.
- IMPACTS (Improving Mathematical Problem solving, Acumen, & Confidence for Teachers and Students) program: CRR helps elementary and middle school teachers to deepen content knowledge through a series of workshops throughout the school year and a week-long Math Institute every summer. Teachers learn to present concepts in a student-centric way, while creating a plan for improvement that is unique to their school. Research has shown that teachers who attend more than three of these workshops have a substantial increase in AzMERIT scores among their students.
- Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus and Statistics Practice Exams: To help prepare students to be successful on the national College Board exams in calculus and statistics, CRR hosts more than 400 high schoolers every year to take AP practice tests. Students who participate score significantly higher than other students.