“There is often a gap between the pure teaching of mathematics in math classes and students using it in application courses. The place in-between is where students need experiences analyzing and solving real life problems."
--Evelyn Puaa, Math Instructor
Preparing her students to operate effectively in this gap is paramount to Evelyn Puaa. As a high school teacher for 19 years and a college instructor for 15, she is in the unique position to give future teachers the skills she knows they will need.
Puaa is a part of what is called CUTeach, a campus-wide program with the mission to recruit and educate future math and science teachers to teach in the 21st century. It is a replication of the UTeach program, which began at the University of Texas at Austin in 1997, and has been spreading to universities around the country since. CUTeach is a part of UTeach’s first wave of expansion.
CUTeach is a collaborative effort of the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Education. It provides a 4 year program that leads to a degree in a math or science and also provides students with a Colorado teaching license. CUTeach’s aim isn’t to create the typical teacher, but to produce outstanding ones. The Functions and Modeling class Evelyn will teach this fall for the mathematics department is an outcome of the partnership of Education and Mathematics.
CUTeach classes incorporate strategies such as group learning and hands-on experiences emphasizing inquiry learning. Puaa's course will include the use of technology in classroom explorations and investigations to develop in her students a rich understanding of mathematical topics. The technological tools she will incorporate into activities will allow them to analyze real–world data.
Puaa noticed something important while she taught high school: many teachers’ skills were outdated. In high school classrooms today, students are exposed to many technologies that have cropped into classrooms in the past few years. These technologies are aimed at making learning more fun—using graphics, teamwork, and creativity to teach math and science.
But there is a problem. Many teachers graduating this year may have never used the technologies that are now becoming standards in the classroom. Teachers are now and will be expected to provide top-notch teaching while learning how to use these technology tools on the fly.
This is where Puaa's plan comes into play. Her students will be studying mathematics in the type of setting that they will soon be required to create as teachers in 21st century secondary math classrooms. She intends to teach future secondary math teachers how to make learning math engaging and meaningful by using technology. The tools she’ll be using include:
- Easy Math: After measuring things like acceleration of moving objects, temperature and distances, students will then use this data to analyze, compare, and contrast data sets and derive their functions.
- TI Viewscreen: This allows the instructor, or student, to project their calculator screen, allowing everyone to be involved in one assignment.
- Geometer’s Sketchpad: This will allow students to create a hypothesis regarding a function and quickly test it, as well as provide support services like lesson materials and training.
Through these technologies, Puaa and math department chair, Eric Stade, hope that students will learn to play.
“Playing and learning are really the same thing. When you play around, when you experiment, that’s when you’re really learning,” Stade shares. By allowing students to play with technologies in hands-on activities, they’ll not only learn to be technologically proficient, but will also develop the skills to be creative in their future classrooms.
The goal to improve teaching and learning through technology earned Eric Stade and Evelyn Puaa an ASSETT grant through the Dean’s Fund for Excellence program, which will allow them to purchase the technologies they need for their class.
For Evelyn Puaa, technology is simply a tool to help students reach their full potential. The real goal is the most important: to work together “to better prepare future teachers.”
Written By: Kate Vander Wiede, CU '09, ASSETT Staff