University teams with the GE Foundation and the Syracuse City School
District to enliven math lessons
to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying may be a clever
title for a Broadway show, but in reality there are no easy shortcuts
to career preparation in todays global marketplace. In fact,
with the increased need for mathematical understanding in business,
engineering, and information technology, students are often inadequately
prepared for college or a career when they leave high school. As
educators, we must increase our focus on the link between mathematics
and quantitatively oriented careers in business and management,
says Joanna Masingila, a Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor
appointed jointly in the School of Education and the Department
of Mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Fowler High School ninth-grader Breanna Kelly works on
a math assignment using a graphing calculator.
2001, the GE Foundation launched the Math Excellence Program to
help raise mathematics achievement levels among public school students,
particularly among those from underrepresented populations. Through
the Math Excellence Program, the GE Foundation seeks to support
comprehensive K16 [kindergarten through undergraduate college]
strategies that result in longterm, sustained impact on the
skills, interest, and participation of underrepresented students
in engineering, information technology, and quantitative fields
in business, says GE Foundation Executive Director Roger Nozaki.
Since the programs inception, the foundation has committed
more than $12 million in grants to programs that focus on strengthening
and expanding diversity in these areas.
a $357,300 Math Excellence Program grant, Masingila formed a partnership
with the Syracuse City School Districtwhere improving math
test scores is a focus of effort on the part of teachers and administratorsto
help enhance the math skills of students in grades 7-12. Together
they developed the Data-Driven Algebra project, which is designed
to improve success in algebraknowledge that is essential to
understand, interpret, and use quantitative information. The project
focuses on aspects of algebra that are linked to reasoning, communicating,
and representing data.
portion of the grant money was used to purchase graphing calculators
to help students solve and better understand math problems. Any
mathematical relationship can be represented in three forms: a table,
a graph, or an equation, says Julia Hallquist G02, a
math teacher at Fowler High School. Using graphing calculators,
we can see all three simply by pushing a button. This helps students
understand the nature of algebra, and lets them see how an equation
can represent a slope or a curve. Graphing calculatorsunaffordable
to most students in the districtmake the study of mathematics
more interesting and provide a tool that is commonly found in math
classrooms of more affluent school districts.
three-year GE Foundation grant also supports:
continuing education and other professional development opportunities
to help math teachers keep current with the latest teaching methods
two SU graduate assistants to provide teachers with classroom
a consultant to help refine teaching techniques.
students are now studying the mathematics of the forces involved
in bridge constructionan instructional concept that was developed
by the Data-Driven Algebra project, Hallquist says. This
project has made a tremendous difference in how I teach.
in its first year, the project also has created excitement among
the student participants. My students are more absorbed in
their math studies since becoming involved in the project,
Hallquist says. They love being able to see math as less of
an abstraction and more as a useful tool.