STEM Central

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The Soul of Mathematics is at Mississippi Valley State University

The Soul of Mathematics is at Mississippi Valley State University

I taught mathematics at the collegiate level for over twenty years and I was successful at it. I define success by the fact that many of my students learned to appreciate, maybe even like mathematics, and mastered the material. Nothing can draw my ire more than a teacher of mathematics complaining that her or his students are unprepared for their course – as if it was the students’ fault – and doing nothing about it. So imagine my delight when the HBCU-UP program received a proposal for an implementation project from Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) that focused on remedying the system and the way in which mathematics is taught, and not on “fixing” the students. Not only was I impressed, but some members of the panel reviewing the proposal were in tears when discussing the kind and nurturing way in which the students were described in the proposal.

Not only did MVSU propose to reform its mathematics curriculum and the way mathematics is taught, but they also realized that in order to help the students who come to the university with mathematics skills that are inadequate for studies in STEM, they had to work with the local teachers. The majority of mathematics teachers in the Mississippi Delta, according to the principal investigators, do not have a degree in mathematics and many have taken few mathematics courses.

Now, any excellent proposal that moves a panel to tears of joy gets eventually awarded. So what has happened at MVSU as a result of the HBCU-UP implementation project? Below is the report from Constance Bland, principal investigator and Vice President for Academic Affairs.

The Mississippi Valley State University HBCU-UP Project has a major component tailored to strengthening the skills of current and future teachers of mathematics.  The project has made an impact on more than 20 schools in the Mississippi Delta. From these schools, 88 in-service teachers participated in summer activities and additional activities during the school year.  Additionally, 43 MVSU students participated as pre-service teachers and 32 of those students are currently teachers.

As a result of the HBCU-UP Clinic, major accomplishments were realized: 1) The University has institutionalized the dual enrollment initiative.  The University has increased the number of dual enrollment classes to involve nine schools and 248 students in contrast with initial two schools and 23 students enrolled. 2) The success of pre-service teachers who have participated in our Teachers’ Clinic and the respective performance of their students over the last few years is a good indicator of the quality of the instruction our pre-service teachers are receiving and delivering in mathematics.  We have several in-service teachers who have received national, state and district wide recognitions and awards.

The HBCU-UP implementation projects have made a tremendous impact at the University, K-12 schools and the community.  Specifically, the HBCU-UP projects have been instrumental in the University becoming accredited in computer science and ultimately receiving national recognition in the mathematics education program.  At least two faculty members have received terminal degrees in mathematics and computer science with the support of faculty development funds. In addition, several STEM faculty members have received support for conducting research and publishing scholarly work. STEM students are choosing to pursue post baccalaureate degrees upon completion of their undergraduate studies at a higher rate. Additionally, more students are participating in Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs and internships. Furthermore, the retention rate of STEM students at MVSU has shown an increase. One of the greatest accomplishments is students are starting to see themselves outside of the Mississippi Delta.

Please join me in applauding our colleagues at Mississippi Valley State University for their work, dedication, and caring.

With best wishes - Claudia

Claudia Rankins, Ph.D.
Senior Program Officer, HBCU-UP
Division of Human Resource Development
National Science Foundation

Photo: Students and faculty from Mississippi Valley State University attending the 2017 Emerging Researchers National Conference in Washington, D.C.