(CM)²: Creating Momentum through Communicating Mathematics

some math pictures

(CM)² was a program hosted in 2009-2014 by the Mathematics Department at San Francisco State University and was supported by the National Science Foundation's GK-12 Program (grant DGE-0841164). (CM)² funded nine mathematics graduate student Fellows per year. Our aim was to enrich the mathematical experiences of the Fellows, as well as teachers and students from four San Francisco public schools, and prepare the Fellows for Ph.D. programs.

A key goal was to strengthen the Fellows' communication, teaching, outreach, and teamwork skills by immersing them in mathematics classrooms and the San Francisco Math Circle. A second key goal was to make mathematics, especially algebra, and its career connections more relevant and explicit for 6-12 grade teachers and students.

The project enhanced the preparation of the Fellows for Ph.D. programs, particularly among underrepresented minorities. The project contributed to meeting societal demand for mathematicians who can explain their work and its significance, not only to each other, but to the general public. By developing mathematics seminars focused on communicating research, the model provided innovative strategies for invigorating mathematics education in graduate school.

group photo

Testimonies from fellows:

"I'm serious about becoming an educator. Readings and discussions in 728 were terrific, and I learned more about teaching from working with [...] than I did last year teaching on my own. My work at [...] and SFMC were more valuable to me than the paychecks--though those were great, too. Thanks again for the opportunity to be a part of this project."

"(CM)² has also enhanced my preparation to enter the PhD programs. Being in this program has increased my confidence and excitement to start my PhD program through the support from Matt and Brandy as well as the teachers and other fellows. In addition, the financial support has opened up opportunities by removing financial barriers in applying to PhD programs. As an underrepresented minority, this program has given me so much in terms of academic support, encouragements, and resources. Through (CM)², I have become more aware of the low numbers of underrepresented minorities in higher education and I'm ecstatic to be a role model to others."

"In all honesty, I was not interested in working in the high school or in math circle to begin with but obviously took this fellowship for financial and moral support. Now, I'm looking sadly at the end of my time working at [...] High and with [...] and [...] and the other teachers. I've learned so much, even if I never teach again, well, I may start up my own math circle someday, but even if I don't, it has been a very personally rewarding experience."

Testimonies from teachers:

"Having another person in the room with deep math knowledge is good for the students and definitely helps with the amount of material covered. As to my pedagogy, I'm sure it has had an effect but I haven't tried to define what it is. It has caused me to think more about what engages the students. I tend to push moving through the concepts, but now I am thinking more about ways to get the students involved. I don't believe this necessarily has to be a show of how the concepts are relevant to the students lives. Coming up with intriguing problems where the students don't feel shut out and turn off because of prior assumptions of them having a particular skill set seems to work well. Just having someone for me to interact with intellectually has been good, and I think it will help in improving course content."

"Having another pair of knowledgeable eyes in the classroom has pushed me to think about and to be able to articulate what my motives and intentions are for each lesson. [...] is always thinking beyond the math concept to its implementation and I have benefited from his sharing his insights. Also, the students love it when we come up with different interpretations on a topic."

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