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College of Human Sciences

Another Advancement In

STEM Education Iowa State University informing decision-makers about research in Science–Technology–Engineering–Mathematics Education

Community math approach promotes shared culture of learning Educators at Iowa State University are pioneering a new approach to mathematics curriculum by teaching pre-service teachers to embrace the resources at work in their classrooms. Corey Drake, an associate professor in curriculum and instruction, is encouraging students to take advantage of diversity in learning and incorporate it into math lessons. Drake said different students may experience mathematics at work in a variety of ways at home, and when a teacher encourages students to share their mathematical knowledge and practices with others, it transforms the curriculum to promote a culture of shared learning, or a “community approach” as Drake calls it. Using this community approach to mathematics teaching and learning, Drake, along with collaborators at six universities nationwide, are studying preservice teachers in math methods courses to assess their attitudes about incorporating both traditional and non-traditional teaching methods – such as the community approach – into their classrooms. “In the pre-survey, students are generally positive about trying a different approach to teaching mathematics, but they’re unsure as to how to implement it,” Drake said. “By the end of the course, the post-survey results indicate that 70-80 percent of the students are strongly positive about community math and have clear ideas of how to use it in their classrooms. When teachers approach learning and sharing in this way,

Corey Drake helps education students understand the connection between community math teaching methods and student success in classroom. Photo by Laura Dillavou.

students are more likely to feel positive about their math experience, and that’s what we want.” What’s more, Drake said that the pre- and post-survey data look almost identical from university to university, indicating that pre-service teachers nationwide are eager to try a new approach to helping youngsters learn problem solving, reasoning skills, and other key math processes. “The first year in the classroom can be very daunting,” Drake said. “There is so much thrown at new teachers, and it’s hard to incorporate it all. By teaching education students these new math methods during their preservice years, we hope these approaches will become ingrained in their teaching.” “The most effective educators are the ones who incorporate children’s multiple knowledge bases, to continually learn [for themselves] and share that knowledge with others.” For more information: Read other STEM education stories on the College of Human Sciences web site at March 2010

Another advancement in STEM education: Community math approach promotes shared culture of learning