The Ohio State University at Mansfield

Dr. Robert Moses receives honorary degree for Algebra Project success at Ohio State Mansfield

Dr. Norman Jones, Dr. Lee McEwan, and Dr. Robert Moses

On December 18, The Ohio State University bestowed on Dr. Robert Parris Moses the honorary degree Doctor of Science for the profound impact his work with math education has had at Ohio State Mansfield and numerous area schools. Unfortunately weather delayed Dr. Moses' arrival in Ohio, and Dr. Norman Jones, Associate Dean at Ohio State Mansfield, assisted by Dr. Lee McEwan, presented Dr. Moses with his diploma and academic hood at a Mansfield campus celebration on Monday, December 19.

Dr. Moses, a former civil rights activist, believes every American has a constitutional right to a quality education. Because of this, he is transforming math education in schools across the country with the revolutionary Algebra Project, a unique approach to math education that encourages students to think differently about mathematics. Instead of using symbols to calculate math problems, students learn by using real-world experiences and everyday language to find the mathematical concepts within those experiences.

In the 1960s, Dr. Moses worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), focusing on grassroots and community-based leadership. During the Civil Rights Movement, he was an influential leader in educating and registering voters in Mississippi. He played a significant role in the Mississippi Summer Project of 1964, as well as the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

A key to the success of the voter-registration movement in Mississippi, according to Dr. Moses, was the single-minded focus on that one goal: voter registration. Now he is single-mindedly focused on the idea of education as a civil right, and the methods of the Algebra Project to transform math education in high poverty and rural school districts around the nation.

Dr. Moses established the Algebra Project in 1982 after receiving a MacArthur “Genius Grant.” Since then, the Algebra Project has worked to improve math skills among low-income and minority students attending public schools in cities such as New York, Baltimore, New Orleans, and San Francisco.

Dr. Moses says, “What could be capable of spreading [throughout the country] is the idea that we need teachers and we need a way of elevating the status of teachers, like we elevate the status of doctors. We need to invest in the teaching and learning of this subject."

Ohio State Mansfield partnered with the Algebra Project in 2008. Dr. Moses credits Dr. Lee McEwan, professor emeritus of mathematics at Ohio State Mansfield and co-chair of the Math Literacy Initiative, with the persistence and foresight to prepare the ground in Mansfield for the Algebra Project.

In 2012, Ohio State Mansfield began collaborating with Mansfield City Schools as part of the campus’ Math Literacy Initiative, a learning community that provides professional development for K-12 teachers and bases its teachings on Dr. Moses’ Algebra Project. Ohio State Mansfield students are now teaching in area schools and creating positive changes throughout the community. The Math Literacy Initiative (MIL) is located at the Springmill Learning Center.

Dr. McEwan says, “In the beginning, it was a research project, and it was small. Locally we had just one teacher, in one classroom. We just got very involved in the work. Over time, we started thinking about the needs of the schools in general. Mansfield City Schools was very farsighted in the project. Eventually, we were invited to work with K-8 teachers and expand greatly.”

While in Mansfield, Dr. Moses met with math teachers and leaders from participating schools, as well as Ohio State mathematics professors, administrators, and students during a breakfast and a workshop. Numerous attendees shared their stories of the success of the Algebra Project in their classrooms. They also talked about future goals in working with students enrolled in the program. Ty’Lhier Grose, a freshman at Mansfield Senior High Schools and one of the many students who praised the Algebra Project, said, “…it’s a fun, and hands-on way to study algebra. It makes math fun.”

Dr. Moses explains, “The Algebra Project can be a place, an incubator. To say this is one way that it can be done, but it has to be taken over by the actual institutions including the universities responsible for turning out the teachers as well as the public schools.”