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
|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
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
|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
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
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