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Mathematics workshop 'Making Mathematical Reasoning Explicit' teaches instructors how to teach math


MOSCOW, ID - Math is a subject that common-core education advocates want to emphasize in the classroom, but it's also a subject that intimidates a large portion of students in our elementary, middle, and high schools.

Reporter Rachel Dubrovin explains how local teachers are using these summer months to become students themselves, and learn how to better educate today's youth in mathematics.

"Any number divided by itself or to the power of zero" said Instructor.

It's a program that's unique to the Inland Northwest.

"It's really changed me as a teacher," said Forrest M. Bird Charter School Sixth Grade Teacher David Lien.

The University of Idaho and Washington State University teamed up to create "Making Mathematical Reasoning Explicit," or MMRE. The program is funded by a five-million-dollar-grant from the National Science Foundation, and it's about teaching teachers how to teach math.

"Math is an area of high need among our students," said U of I Associate Professor of Mathematics Rob Ely. "It's a area that students struggle with a lot, and it's an area that teachers have trouble knowing how to get students to understand."

Over a hundred fourth-through-12-grade educators from Inland Northwest school districts are spending a couple weeks on the U of I campus to improve their math instruction methodology.

"Previous years you would ask the student to solve a problem, they were done," said Lien. "Well now we want to know, 'How did you solve it?' and 'Why did you solve it that way?'"

"We're really looking at that reasoning piece, and that it's like not 'Math Magic," said Washington Elementary Fifth Grade Teacher Dinah Gaddie. "What's the structure behind the math that makes it work?"

The teachers we spoke with said it's about relating math to everyday life.

"Pretty much everything the kids do is math," said Parkway Elementary School Teacher Toby Valdez. "If you're talking about just driving a car from Pullman to Clarkston, how fast they're going, how much gas you need."

So the students can use math to better their lives in the future.

"The kids are applying for jobs that didn't even exist when I applied for a job, right?" said Gaddie. "So they need that reasoning piece. They need to be able to think outside the box. It's going to be powerful how much farther the kids are going to be able to get."

The teachers who attend this two-week mathematics workshop on the U of I campus are also trained to share their new teaching methods with their fellow teachers when they return to their home districts.

Every summer they focus on a different segment of mathematics. They've covered everything from fractions to algebra to geometry.