Intel expands math course for teachers

Intel Corp. is going nationwide with an intensive math course for teachers that the company has successfully piloted in the Bay Area and New England.

Expanding Intel Math is piece of a $200 million, 10-year commitment in science, technology, engineering and math education, known as STEM, that Intel announced with President Obama at the White House last week. Continuing Intel science competitions and the International Science and Engineering Fair (this year in San Jose in May) is a bigger piece.

Intel Math is an 80-hour program that explains math concepts and teaching strategies to K-8 teachers. It’s co-taught by a math professional  – usually a college professor — and a veteran math teacher. Together they blend the theoretical and the pedagogical  to give teachers an in-depth understanding behind the formulas  and lessons they teach.

Research has shown generally has shown that math students do better when their teachers have a thorough understanding of math concepts. That’s been lacking particularly for multi-subject credentialed elementary teachers, who may have taken their last math course two decades ago.

In the Bay Area, Intel Math has been championed by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, whose member companies have underwritten stipends for the instructors and teachers. About 200 teachers from a dozen districts have completed the course, and 100 more will take it this summer and fall. The Leadership Group has spent about $500,000 – about $70,000 per class of 20 teachers — so far on the program. Dennis Cima,  the organization’s vice president for education/workplace, said teachers have demonstrated about a 33 percent increase in content knowledge in pre- and post-testing.

With the state cutting funding on professional development, teachers are lucky to be trained on what’s inside textbooks, not to mention the fundamentals of math. In Intel Math, the class may spend a couple hours learning why multiplying two negative numbers produce a positive or why, when dividing fractions, you flip numbers and multiple.

Intel has spent about $2 million creating the program, said program manager Julie Dunkle, and will spend millions more disseminating it and doing an extensive evaluation to see whether  Intel Math correlates with higher student test scores.

New Jersey and Arizona are among the states that have said they planned to include Intel Math instruction in their Race to the Top applications. California, Santa Clara-based Intel’s home state, is not one of them.

The next step should be to work Intel math into teacher preparation programs, so that the next generation of elementary and middle school teachers is both confident and savvy in math.

Author: John Fensterwald - Educated Guess

John Fensterwald, a journalist at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, edits and co-writes "Thoughts on Public Education in California" (www.TOPed.org), one of the leading sources of California education policy reporting and opinion, which he founded in 2009. For 11 years before that, John wrote editorials for the Mercury News in San Jose, with a focus on education. He worked as a reporter, news editor and opinion editor for three newspapers in New Hampshire for two decades before receiving a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 1997 and heading West shortly thereafter. His wife is an elementary school teacher and his daughter attends the University California at Davis.

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