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WFSU: Teachers Become Science And Math “Masters” At Training Program

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Lisa Phillips teaches 7th grade math at Florida State University’s lab school. Right now the topic is Integers and proportions are the lesson of the day.

Phillips says she’s always looking for new and interesting ways to teach her students. The former meteorologist-turned middle school math teacher says she gets bored with always doing things the same way. So she goes to lots of training sessions.

“When you stop going to these things, that’s when I say you’re in trouble. Because you’re always getting new ideas and fresh approaches. I may not like them, but you should never stop learning new ways of doing things.”

Recently she was a part of a program called Science and Math Masters. And she says she came back with new teaching techniques, including an interesting way to present concepts like volume and area to her students:

“The training had one [example]…back in his day he calculated the circumference of the Earth by Looking at shadows. And so that’s what we’re going to do.”

The Science Math Masters training program is a partnership between the University of Tampa and about 32 rural districts around the state.  Dr. Ed Moore, head of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, says the program is different because it on using fresh content to teach old concepts. It helps teachers with things like state certification exams. And Moore says the training program helps fill gaps that exist in staffing rural schools:

“For example, if you have to pass a Physics end-of-course exam, not every school in every small county has somebody who is certified in physics or chemistry. They may have a biology teacher whose teaching out of field in order to have a course available for those students.”

Science Math Masters comes as Florida adopts a nationalized curriculum called the Common Core that requires more in-depth work from students. The Florida Comprehensive Assessment test is being phased out in favor of end-of-course exams and tests to fit the Common Core. The Florida Department of Education has been holding teacher training sessions, and so have individual school districts. But there are about 190,000 teachers in the state. And Moore says everyone could use a little extra help in getting prepared.

“It’s trickle-down education. Because the beneficiaries are going to be the students in those school districts with more knowledgeable teachers standing in front of their classrooms,” he said.

Science Math Masters is funded through a three-year grant from the state. And next year it will be available in all 67 counties.

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