Math project marks 20 successful years

Adding up the results
Math project marks 20 successful years

Special to the Rice News

When Aurelio Velazquez made the switch from teaching college English to middle-school mathematics, he felt a little lost. After participating in the Rice University School Mathematics Project (RUSMP) summer program, he became an ardent believer and enthusiastic participant in the project.

“RUSMP has helped me be a better teacher, and when I see the lights come on in my students’ faces, I know I’ve succeeded,” Velazquez said.

RUSMP was established in 1987 with a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and a goal to build a bridge between the Rice University mathematics research community and Houston-area mathematics teachers. To accomplish this goal, RUSMP has developed extensive activities for teachers and administrators, including long-term, intensive, professional development for teachers; full-day workshops; and opportunities for networking across schools and districts.

RUSMP celebrates its 20th anniversary with a dinner and conference, Sept. 8-9. Speakers at the Friday evening event include President David Leebron; Wiess School of Natural Sciences Dean Kathleen Matthews; and R.O. “Ronny”

Wells Jr., RUSMP’s founding director. The conference will take a look at the past, present and future of the project and will feature a showcase of mathematics activities presented by current RUSMP master teachers.

Aurelio Velazquez, math teacher at Pin Oak Middle School, found valuable teaching tools at the Rice University School Mathematics Project summer program.

Forty-eight teachers attended RUSMP’s inaugural summer campus program. Now more than 500 educators each year attend a wide gamut of RUSMP courses and programs, including the summer campus program. The staff has grown to seven, including five full-time educators, plus 15 master teachers who assist in instruction.

In addition to the original grant, RUSMP has received funding from two subsequent NSF grants, as well as significant funding from the U.S. Department of Education, corporations, foundations and school districts. It has received numerous national awards and international recognition.

Anne Papakonstantinou, RUSMP director, is committed to keeping teachers in the profession despite a growing list of challenges — challenges she experienced firsthand during 35 years in education, including 26 as an award-winning teacher in the Houston Independent School District. She attributes a great deal of RUSMP’s success to the fact that the professional staff knows what teachers face on a daily basis.

“We’re exposing teachers to the beauty, power, connections and richness of mathematics, and it’s working,” Papakonstantinou said. “I know we are nurturing and sustaining teachers.”

Looking ahead, Papakonstantinou sees RUSMP’s work as far from complete.

“Our goal is to make sure good mathematics instruction is taking place in every classroom and that teachers are happy and well-equipped to do their jobs,” she said.

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