Dr. Jeffrey Morgan
Professor and Chairman, Department of Mathematics
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by Noelle Heinze
Because many students are limited by weak math backgrounds when they arrive as college freshmen, Dr. Jeffrey Morgan, chair of the department of mathematics, and his colleagues, are procuring resources and employing innovative strategies to promote math at the high school and college levels.
“There is a shortage of certified teachers for high school mathematics, which is exacerbated by a lack of funds to pay for training and certification,” says Morgan as he discusses some of the current problems facing math educators.  This deficiency, accompanied by a prevalent attitude that undervalues and underpays teachers, equals students who cannot excel in college math courses.
To meet this challenge, Morgan has initiated change at the high school and university levels through a variety of approaches, such as calculus teachers workshops, the Center for Academic Support and Assessment (CASA), and federal education grants, in addition to his department's online master’s degree in mathematics for K-12 teachers, and other various programs.
On a chilly Saturday morning, Morgan serves hot coffee and bagels to local high school calculus teachers who are settling in for one of the five workshops offered yearly that address issues facing advanced placement (AP) calculus teachers. 
 “If only 10 teachers showed up to these workshops, we would still reach about 1500 students because of the high number of students per classroom and teacher in Houston public schools,” says Morgan.
In 2001, Morgan and John Hardy, associate dean in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NSM) and associate professor of mathematics, initiated an effort to form the Houston Area Calculus Teachers organization (www.houstonact.org).  The organization offers “Just in Time” AP calculus teachers workshops, “providing an open forum for teachers to share ideas, seek classroom solutions, and increase the base of their teaching resources,” says Hardy.
Hardy and Morgan volunteer their time to sponsor these free workshops, and they arrange guest speakers based on teachers’ interests.
Morgan also worked with NSM to create CASA, a computer-based learning and testing facility that opened in 2004 on the UH campus.  Morgan is the director of this progressive center that is designed to offer a secure testing environment and tutoring for students enrolled in lower division mathematics courses and freshman chemistry courses. 
Students schedule their tests during a specified period, and computers generate a different exam each time, providing immediate feedback on test results.  High-quality online math tutorials, supplemented by one-on-one math assistance, are also offered, and in the future, students in targeted mathematics courses will submit homework online.
Some of the benefits of having the center are that it gives instructors additional classroom time to devote to teaching, and fewer assistants are required for grading and record keeping, which saves costs.  In addition, uniformity is achieved in testing and grading practices, and students take an active role in directing their education.
To meet needs in another area, Morgan is leading a three-year initiative to provide training and resources to middle and high school mathematics programs.  He has obtained education grants to provide training and certification for local math teachers; to provide algebra correspondence courses for students; to prepare math students for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills; and to provide stipends for teachers and undergraduate college students who are involved in this effort. 
It’s now a Monday morning in mid-November and Morgan’s mind is already on future projects as he releases an announcement for a high school mathematics contest the mathematics department is hosting in February at UH (www.mathcontest.uh.edu).  Prizes and scholarships will be awarded to the best students, and Morgan promises “a good time for all participants.”
Using a variety of approaches, Jeffrey Morgan is leading his department in solving problems that don’t require a calculator.
Please visit www.math.uh.edu if you would like more information about the University of Houston Department of Mathematics.
 
© University of Houston 2004