Middle Math Matters

UT Tyler Leads Effort to Prepare 5th – 10th Graders for College Success

Publication Date: 10/30/2019

Students who complete upper-level math courses in high school are more likely to enroll and succeed in higher education. In rural East Texas, however, less than 10 percent of high school students complete a math course beyond precalculus.

The University of Texas at Tyler is leading an effort to strengthen math education in rural school districts to better prepare students for postsecondary success. The program, Advancing Inquiry in Middle Mathematics for Rural East Texas (AIMM), is funded by a two-year grant from the Greater Texas Foundation. Partnering universities include Sam Houston State University and Stephen F. Austin State University.

AIMM works to improve math outcomes through research and the professional development of math teachers, particularly those teaching grades five through 10, which are considered the “middle grades.’’

“The middle grades are pivotal to high school math outcomes, which are directly connected to postsecondary enrollment, persistence and graduation,’’ said Dr. John Lamb, a UT Tyler professor of mathematics education who leads the AIMM initiative.

A study of East Texas math outcomes indicated that, while only 7 percent of rural students completed upper-level math courses, 62 percent of those who did were successful at earning a college degree or certificate.

“The significance of ‘62 percent’ is that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has set a goal for 60 percent of the state’s population to have a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2030,’’ Lamb said. “Based on the math outcomes study, the only students who can predictably reach the 60 percent goal are those who take high-level math courses in high school.’’

Through research, AIMM is investigating factors such as student access to advanced learning in math and the teaching practices and challenges of schools outside East Texas urban areas. Through intensive teacher training, the program seeks to help students become strong problem-solvers in math. Teachers from rural areas surrounding each partnering university are recruited to participate.

This year, nearly 100 East Texas math teachers are participating in the training, returning to their schools with new strategies to improve student learning.

“This program works to help teachers get away from the traditional way of teaching,’’ said Amy Thomas, who teaches in Richards Independent School District. “We work to build the minds of our students and improve students’ independent learning.’’

“Through AIMM, I have learned that students need time to think and express their own thoughts on how to solve a particular problem,’’ said Chad Commander, who teaches in Elysian Fields ISD. “I am seeing students who never wanted to learn math begin to participate in class and successfully solve problems in their own way.’’

For more about AIMM for Rural East Texas, visit middlemathmatterseasttx.weebly.com

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UT Tyler