Apr 3, 2006    #063
Contact: Michelle Hopkins

Revisions, additions in UMKC curriculum aimed at making higher math education accessible to all

Alarms have been sounded by national math associations, leading U.S. educators, and even the president of the United States: vast improvement is needed in mathematical education if American students in college, high school, middle school and elementary school are to succeed in today’s technologically complex world. At the University of Missouri-Kansas City a new and revamped curriculum is being introduced to do just that.

Seven new “Mathematics for Teachers” courses are being introduced beginning this year and next as a result of a unique collaboration between the University’s College of Arts & Sciences and School of Education. What is especially beneficial to students is that the new class options combine math content knowledge with creative “methods” approaches designed to break down the “elitism” that many people feel traditionally shroud excellence in math.

“Elitism in math can’t be tolerated. We need to teach math in a way that all can understand,” said Rita Barger, assistant professor in the School of Education’s division of curriculum instruction and instructional leadership. Barger has worked for many years to enhance math instruction for pre-service and in-service teachers. She was a member of an advisory board for research conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, called “Connecting Middle School and College Mathematics.” This initiative produced redesigned math textbooks in algebra, geometry, calculus and probability/statistics (see The textbooks are being used in the new “Mathematics for Teachers” courses at UMKC (see list below).

Leading the charge from the College of Arts and Sciences (which provides UMKC’s undergraduate education) is Richard Delaware, associate clinical professor, department of mathematics and statistics. He says alarming reports released nationally and in Missouri were an impetus for the curriculum enhancement, but not the only one. UMKC’s new Institute for Urban Education, training teachers uniquely skilled to teach in Kansas City’s urban schools, was another.

“Research has shown that only 10 percent of Missouri’s 10th graders test as proficient in math. In addition, urban teachers have been found to have lower math content knowledge than teachers in higher income districts,” Delaware noted. Delaware initiated curriculum enhancement discussions with Barger as much as two years ago, and was named to the curriculum design team for the Institute for Urban Education, which was launched last July.

There is no mistaking that many efforts to enhance math education were under way on the UMKC campus long before President George Bush gave the topic special focus in his State of the Union address Jan. 31, 2006. “In that speech, he proposed the American Competitiveness Initiative to train 70,000 high school teachers to lead advanced-placement courses in math,” said Delaware. (Please see

The new “Mathematical Courses for Teachers” UMKC is adding this year and next are:

  • Mathematical Immersion, starting 2007, for elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers to aid in mathematical reasoning, encouraging math flexibility and dispelling math anxieties and myths.

  • Algebraic Structures, starting in 2007, for middle school teachers to include algebraic reasoning, deductive/inductive reasoning, algebraic systems, modeling in geometry and axiomatic mathematics.

  • Geometry, starting in 2007, for middle school teachers to connect middle school and college math through geometric reasoning, Euclidean geometry, congruence, area and volume, motion, symmetry, vectors, transformations and more.

  • Probability and Statistics, starting in 2006, for elementary and middle school teachers, to provide foundational knowledge of probabilities and statistics, elements of statistics, organizing, displaying and describing data, distributions, correlations, regression, prediction and estimation.

  • Calculus, starting in 2007, designed for middle school teachers focusing on concepts and applications with a discovery and inquiry approach, sequences and series, functions, limits, continuity, differentiation and integration and their applications.

  • Algebra and Analysis, beginning in 2006, for secondary school teachers to examine high school mathematics from a higher point of view, including real and complex numbers, functions, structures of equations, integers and polynomials, alternate approaches, extensions and applications of mathematical ideas and discussion and connection of ideas that may have been studied in separate courses, as well as relationships to ideas likely to be encountered in later study.

  • Geometry, starting in 2006, designed for secondary school teachers, including the geometry concepts described above, as well as alternate approaches, extensions and applications, historical concepts and relationship to ideas likely to be encountered in later study.

    The efforts of UMKC’s College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education are motivated by and in accordance with reports released by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the Mathematical Assn. of America (MAA) and the American Mathematical Society (AMS).

    The collaboration between the College of Arts & Sciences and the School of Education is highly unusual among higher education institutions with separate departments or schools for undergraduate studies and teacher education programs, said Barger.

    “Math wars between mathematicians and educators on the national level have existed for more than five years and, to some extent, still today,” noted Barger. “That fact makes the collaboration occurring at UMKC even more remarkable. As a result, many people will benefit, teachers and students, and American society in general.”


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