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UH West Oʻahu awarded NSF grant for project to develop high-quality math teachers


Dr. Laurie James (center), associate professor of Math Education at UH West Oʻahu, recently received a grant for a project that aims to cultivate well-prepared math teachers. Image courtesy of UHWO Staff

The University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu received a nearly $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for a project that focuses on the importance of developing more high-quality mathematics teachers in Hawai‘i.

The three-year, $299,527 grant was awarded earlier this month for a project titled, “Building Confidence through Inquiry, Research, Community Leadership, and Engagement (B-CIRCLE).” Its principal investigator is Dr. Laurie James, associate professor of Math Education, and co-principal investigators are Dr. Michael Furuto, professor of Mathematics, and Dr. Veny Liu, associate professor of Mathematics.

“The significance of the B-CIRCLE project is to promote teaching as a rewarding and fulfilling career,” James said. “The United States faces a significant shortage of well-prepared mathematics teachers. To address the teacher shortage problem, B-CIRCLE focuses on the importance of developing more high-quality mathematics teachers in Hawai‘i.”

UH West O‘ahu elementary education students and middle-level/secondary mathematics majors — identified as preservice teachers in the teacher preparation program — will benefit from B-CIRCLE as they build confidence through unique engaging activities, James said.

“This would include participating in community STEM camps, receiving professional development, and presenting undergraduate action research projects,” she said. “B-CIRCLE will create a lasting change in active learning through the application of pedagogical content knowledge in effective teaching that improves the depth and breadth of education for students pursuing their Bachelor of Education degree with concentrations in Elementary Education or Middle-Level/Secondary Mathematics.”

Among the B-CIRCLE participants is Hailey Cadina, a senior in the Elementary Education program at UH West O‘ahu.

“I know just from my perspective and from my cohorts’ perspective, we’re super excited to get access to free online resources and things that are going to be really beneficial to us in our future classrooms and in our learning right now, as well as opportunities for professional development days that will definitely strengthen and help us as future teachers,” said Cadina, a Waialua resident and Leilehua High School graduate.

The purpose of B-CIRCLE is to provide UH West O‘ahu preservice teachers opportunities to increase self-efficacy and improve mathematical content knowledge as they work toward becoming leaders in their community and teaching in Hawai‘i, James noted.

“The B-CIRCLE project will have a substantially broader impact effect and benefit our society through innovative learning opportunities that are linked to experiences that demonstrate the personal growth of the UH West O‘ahu preservice teachers through leadership roles, problem-based math, and hands-on activities,” she said.

James added that the B-CIRCLE project will integrate 20 sessions of professional development into the math methods courses for the UH West O‘ahu preservice teachers. Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival trainers will provide the training to reinforce mathematical pedagogy, help build schema, and create fun math experiences through the exploration of festivals.

“The activities are designed to have a low floor so that anyone can find a way to engage, and a high ceiling so that everyone can discover a meaningful challenge,” James said. “These professional development activities will fill an unaddressed need for future teachers to have access to additional resources that link to the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.”