Elementary Teachers Enhance Skills at Math Institute
July 5, 2012
Forty-six teachers in grades 3, 4 and 5 participated last month in a weeklong, 40-hour institute at CSU Stanislaus to learn how to better convey the idea of fractions to their students.

The Central California Mathematics Project (CCMP) conducted the institute under the direction of CSU Stanislaus math professors Viji Sundar and Heather Coughlin. The CCMP, headquartered at CSU Stanislaus, is one of 19 regional programs administered under the California Mathematics Project.

During the workshop, the teachers learned about the critical topic of fractions, which can be difficult to teach to elementary school students. Whole numbers can be intuitively visualized, Sundar said, but fractions are challenging for younger students — and they represent one of the most important building blocks of algebra education.

“A fraction is just a number, but for many it is an entirely different beast,” Sundar said. “Fractions are one of the most misunderstood concepts in the elementary grades, because they are difficult to visualize.

“When teachers develop a conceptual understanding, they will have the competence and confidence to teach their students clearly and in a way that allows the student to master the concept. It is such mastery that leads to higher order thinking skills.”

The teachers also enjoyed a visit from CSU Stanislaus President Joseph Sheley (pictured), who spoke on the importance of the connections between the university, K-12 teachers and the community at large. He also spoke of his support for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) educational activities and expressed pride that CSU Stanislaus was able to host such an event.

The California Mathematics Project is a K-16 network dedicated to improving teachers’ mathematical and pedagogical content knowledge — aligned to the California Mathematics Standards and Framework — with the goal of providing students a rich, rigorous and coherent mathematics curriculum taught by competent and confident teachers.

James Leonard
(209) 667-3884
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