Finding the right equation for math education
Terri Bucci doesn’t want anyone to think they are not good at math. Instead, the associate professor of teaching and learning at Ohio State Mansfield wants young students to know that it’s a matter of how you are taught to understand math.
Ohio State Mansfield students majoring in education learn this early on in Bucci’s classroom and are provided with a hands-on learning experience that includes leading math camps in local school districts.
“Our students at Ohio State Mansfield are exposed to teaching in a non-traditional setting,” Bucci said. “They also get receive experience in our surrounding districts. We’ve had several students graduate and then get jobs in those districts where they have done a math camp.”
Beyond camps, Bucci finds other ways to help her students participate in other immersive experiences in local schools. On March 12, in honor of International Math Day, Ohio State Mansfield students Bruce Dewey and Lacey Luikhart, will lead a day of math at the Malabar Intermediate School. The day will include math games, a Flagway tournament game and pie donated by the local O’Charley’s.
All this active community engagement is influencing the path Ohio State Mansfield education majors take upon graduation.
“We are seeing more Ohio State Mansfield students requesting to teach in urban school districts,” Bucci said. “This is great, because a majority of those students come from small rural areas and they haven’t had a lot of exposure to these districts. It’s a really great connection.”
Bucci also leads the Mathematics Literacy Initiative at Ohio State Mansfield, which transforms the way K-12 math is taught by using a five-step process that focuses on instructional strategies, content knowledge and classroom culture. It allows teachers to step out of a structured lesson and into a world of nurturing the student’s own language and understanding of math, leading to increased academic success.
Outside of her efforts in the classroom and the communities surrounding Ohio State Mansfield, Bucci has dedicated countless hours to advocating the importance of math education. Last summer, she and several other educators participated in a public briefing on math literacy on Capitol Hill with activist Bob Moses and actor Danny Glover.
“For the first two days in Washington, D.C. we met with people from all over the country who shared their stories about how they're using the Algebra Project principles,” Bucci said. “The purpose of the meeting was to set the stage for what the Algebra Project platform is going to be.”
The Algebra Project is a national mathematics literacy effort founded by civil rights activist and math educator Bob Moses in the 1980s. The initiative brings together a combination of curricular materials, professional development and community engagement to ensure all students, no matter their color or income level, have the opportunity to attain a quality education in math.
“I was the lead for what they called the teacher voice in the public briefing,” Bucci said. “The fact that we have children who come out of school not knowing the difference between algebra and geometry, as well as problem-solving in general, is going to be detrimental to them in the future.”
The briefing also featured a facilitated session on the National Flagway Tournament, which is part of the Algebra Project and managed by the Young People’s Project. Flagway is a math sport that gives students the opportunity to explore math principles and extend their knowledge in a fun, interactive competition. The 2020 National Flagway Tournament will be held in Mansfield in May and will include teams in grades four through eight from all over the country competing in the event.