Gift To USF St. Pete Supports Math In Middle Grades

"If young people are not successful in algebra in the middle grades, the likelihood they will graduate from high school, go on to college and get good paying jobs decreases dramatically," says Vivian Fueyo, dean of USF's College of Education-St. Petersburg (USFSP). 

Fueyo and USFSP are so dedicated to this belief that they began measuring teaching methods in 2009, and developed a program, the Sunbay Digital Mathematics Project, that prepares teachers to help students successfully master algebra.

It is the only such program in existence to Fueyo's knowledge, and recently got an added boost from a gift of $125,000 from Progress Energy, a part of a $185,000 gift to the university that will go to several other projects at the university. Fueyo says the Sunbay project is vital to building strong communities for tomorrow.

"If you think about it, up until middle-grade algebra most of the math students do is fairly concrete. Algebra is more abstract. The ability to solve algebraic problems is really the foundation of the kind of problem solving abilities needed to build strong communities. There is more than 10 years of research -- strong evidence from the National Science Foundation -- that the middle grades are the breakpoint."

Fueyo says the money will be used to support tuition for middle school teachers to participate in a five-course sequence for digitally enhanced middle grades mathematics education. The first group of teachers to go through the program will complete the sequence in June 2011, and a new group of teachers will begin the program that same month. She says it was the success of the first session that earned Progress Energy's respect and support.

In year one of the pilot, there was evidence that middle grade students who were part of the project improved across race, ethnicity, language in key concepts in algebra."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Vivian Fueyo, University of South Florida-St. Petersburg

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