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Henrietta Post
  • RIT hosts summer workshop for teachers

  • The Summer Mathematics Institute has been working with teachers from the Rochester area for the past four years to provide them with more efficient ways to teach math to high school students.

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  • The Summer Mathematics Institute has been working with teachers from the Rochester area for the past four years to provide them with more efficient ways to teach math to high school students.
    The idea for the workshop was that of Sophia Maggelakis in 2007, when she was head of the School of Mathematical Sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology. She’s now dean of RIT’s College of Science.
    Maggelakis had the idea of trying to improve math education after struggling with college students who were under-prepared. Along with several other RIT faculty members, she hit the road, visiting various Monroe County school districts to see what RIT could do to help.
    Many teachers said they’d like to learn about how high school mathematics forms the basis for college courses and how it is used by professionals in various fields.
    And so the SMI Teachers’ Workshop was born.
    “We realized that if we ran such a workshop, ours would be the only such workshop in the country, the only workshop that focused on the enterprises for which high school teachers are preparing their students,” said David Ross, the RIT professor who organizes and runs the workshop each year with the help of colleague Carrie Koneski.
    This year’s workshop took place June 27 to 30.
    For the past three years, the School of Mathematical Sciences at RIT has planned, organized and hosted the SMI Teachers’ Workshop. It’s become so popular, in fact, that there’s a waiting list for teachers to participate. The workshop includes three different sessions: Sessions in which experienced professionals discuss, sessions in which young professionals and students discuss, and sessions in which college professors discuss.
    Each year there is also a session on the RIT Math Placement exam.
    “It helps teachers answer the dreaded question, ‘Where am I ever going to use this stuff?,’ that the students love to ask in high school,” said Anne Marie Stockslader, a math teacher at Pittsford-Mendon High School, who has attended the workshop each year. “It is so powerful for the high school teachers to see the mathematics that they teach play a prominent role in so many different careers.”
    Most of the teachers who attend the workshop are from Monroe County, but attendees have traveled from New York City, Pennsylvania and beyond.
    “It was fascinating to talk to a range of teachers, from those who labor tirelessly in the inner-city schools to those who teach at ‘successful’ suburban schools,” said Carl Meunch, a teacher at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, who has attended the workshop in past years. “Obtaining insights and struggles from both was enlightening.”
    Learning doesn’t end after the program, either. Members of the RIT math faculty, along with some of the speakers from the workshop, follow up after the program by visiting schools to talk about college and math. RIT also allows student groups to visit the campus and learn about math, science, college and careers. For the past two years, the school has also provided high school math teachers with the opportunity to audit any RIT mathematics course for free.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We hope that teachers who attend our workshop get information about current applications of mathematics, about how the crucial material that they teach is used in college and in professions,” said Ross.
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