June 13, 2007 Edition

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Math Institute helping
teachers hone skills

Dr. Mike Hall (standing, from left) of the ASU Math Department, Donna Harris of the NEA Education Cooperative and Lana Rhoads of WBC oversee teachers participating in a 10-day geometry institute. This group of teachers, all from Corning area schools, are (seated, from front left): Melissa Woolard, Rita Crafton, Shawna Radcliff and June Bland.
John Bland

Donuts served at a teachers' workshop on the campus of Williams Baptist College on Thursday were not just for eating. Some 27 Northeast Arkansas teachers were doing hands-on measurement of irregular objects, and the donuts were the measurement focus.

The teachers are back in class to hone their math and geometry skills at a Middle School Geometry Institute being held in the Sloan Center on the Williams campus.

The goal of the institute is to enhance teaching skills so teachers can better teach geometry and mathematic problem-solving skills to students in grades fourth through eighth.

"A common thread in our school districts is that geometry and problem-solving skills are lacking," said Donna Harris, project director for the institute and assistant director of the Northeast Arkansas Educational Cooperative.

Students in area schools have generally had low Benchmark testing scores in these areas, so the institute is a solution to help the students by better equipping teachers, Harris explained.

"I'm learning how to think differently," said a teacher from Corning. Marcia Davis, a Hoxie second grade teacher, said she hopes to combine science and math, while incorporating some geometry on a level that second graders can understand.

Three area educational institutions have teamed up with the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) to offer the institute. The institute is a combined effort of the ADE with the Northeast Arkansas Educational Cooperative, Arkansas State University and Williams Baptist.

The institute was funded with a federal math-science partnership grant through the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Title 2, Part B. The grant was awarded through a competitive application process overseen by the ADE. It is a three-year project that will be funded on a year-to-year basis, Harris said.

While the 10-day summer portion of the institute ends this Friday, the institute does not end with summer. The group of teachers will come back together two times, once in the fall and once in the spring for follow-up workshops.

Each teacher will also be visited at his or her teaching site four times during the coming school year. Making these onsite visits will be two of the institute instructors: Dr. Mike Hall of the Arkansas State University Math Department and Lana Rhoads, assistant professor of mathematics at Williams Baptist College.

In addition, Angie Carlton, math specialist at the NEA Co-op, will be a support person for teachers. Carlton was heavily involved in both the grant application process and the institute, according to Harris.

Each teacher will also receive his or her own set of measurement tools.

Teachers attending the institute are from the following schools: Hoxie, Walnut Ridge, Corning, Greene County Tech, Marmaduke, Sloan-Hendrix in Imboden, Paragould, Pocahontas, Oak Grove, Sulphur Rock, Rector and Swifton.

The institute does meet teacher hours required for professional development.

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