What does it mean to be “smart” in mathematics? How can we create opportunities for all students so they see themselves as smart?

Natalie Sanchez tutoring local student

Natalie Sanchez (MAT ’18) tutoring local student

Dr. Cathery Yeh, Assistant Professor in the Attallah College of Educational Studies teacher education programs, sees these questions as key to closing the achievement and opportunity gaps in US schools. She has spent the last year and a half building up a math methods course at Chapman University that integrates a Community Math Partnership Program, whereby Chapman students approach math instruction differently and provide on-site after-school tutoring for elementary students in the local Orange County public schools.

“Elementary school teachers often feel most uncomfortable about teaching math. Math instruction in most US schools still consists of memorization and manipulating numbers and symbols, with little discussion of their meaning. Math should be problem solving and reasoning, a child making sense of the problem and building from there,” said Dr. Yeh.

Chapman’s Community Math Partnership Program was developed to increase mathematics achievement and engagement among elementary age students, while helping its graduate student teachers become effective mathematics educators in public schools.

“Dr. Yeh’s innovative program allows our students to learn and practice cutting-edge math instruction while servicing the community,” said Dr. Kelly Kennedy, Attallah College’s Associate Dean of Graduate Education.

Lufei Lin leading a math lesson

Lufei Lin (MAT ’18) leading a math lesson

For over a year, as part of their math methods courses, Chapman MA in Teaching (MAT) students have worked with elementary students at Heninger Elementary in Santa Ana. Each Chapman student is partnered with a third grade student who is struggling in math for several weeks of tutoring.

Through a process of team teaching and iterative lesson planning, Chapman students leverage and build on their course material with concrete experience.

Each lesson is also videotaped and shared. After receiving feedback from the professor and their peers, the teacher candidates do another round.

Beginning in Spring 2017, the program expanded by partnering with Anaheim’s Magnolia School District.

Three times a semester, Chapman’s Integrated Bachelor’s plus Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction (MACI) students spend an entire day at a Magnolia elementary school. Together with a third and sixth grade teacher, they analyze textbook curriculum and complete lesson plans. Then they co-teach the children with the classroom teacher.

Jeff Hedrick, a sixth grade teacher at Dr. Jonas Salk School, said the experience has been amazing for Salk’s teachers and students: “This program directly benefits our student population of English language (EL) learners. The partnership between Chapman University and our school has increased the enthusiasm of my students for learning math as well as increased our teachers’ enthusiasm and confidence in teaching it.”

MACI student Stacie Nishimura said, “This class gave me with the opportunity to learn how to teach a classroom of students. It allows us to connect theories to real-life examples in the activities and fieldwork. It’s amazing to work with teachers and to try and help them while they help us.”