Silhouette of a person writing on a white board. William Hall, assistant professor of mathematics, knows the tremendous impact high school math teachers can have on how students learn to think and reason quantitatively, and that includes matters of civics, social justice, and fairness.

“It is not always clear that you can be passionate about those ideas and use a career in teaching high school mathematics to explore them further and serve your community at the same time,” he said.

Hall, along with Kristin Lesseig, associate professor of mathematics education at WSU Vancouver, and Tariq Akmal, director of teacher education in the WSU College of Education, received a $1.12 million grant from the National Science Foundation to help recruit and retain mathematics teaching students from historically marginalized groups.

The project, funded through the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, aims to bring 24 diverse candidates into the WSU secondary mathematics teaching program over the next four years. Akmal said the project will focus on recruitment of first-generation college students, those for whom English is not a first language, and students of color.

A need amplified
The number of teachers receiving secondary mathematics endorsements in Washington has been steadily dropping for decades. In fact, the Washington Professional Educator Standards Board has listed mathematics education as a shortage area for the last 25 years.

Additionally, the need for diversity is apparent when looking at high-needs districts: about 87% of Washington state teachers are white while only 53% of students are white.

Multi-step approach
The project team will focus on combating misinformation about teacher wages in the state and plans to identify mentors who will work with grant awardees on a periodic basis.

Kristin Lesseig

The WSU Noyce scholars will receive two years of tuition support and additional financial, academic, and professional support as they enter the teaching profession. For example, during their first year of teaching, scholars will receive funding for classroom technology and materials and for travel to regional mathematics education conferences.

Lesseig said she hopes the program can remove some of the barriers students face along the path to becoming a teacher.

Positive outcomes include students seeing themselves reflected in the math teacher workforce and having the financial means to pursue the degree, she said.

“Another will be having future secondary mathematics teachers who are committed to teaching for social justice and have the tools and resources to invite their future students into a more humanizing version of mathematics.”

Top image: Stock image via WSU News.

By C. Brandon Chapman, College of Education, for WSU Insider