TechMath: Real World Math, Technology, and Business Connections
Seventy math and science teachers and 70 students in northeast NC will work on teams with business partners to apply critical and analytical thinking, information technology skills, and mathematical principals to solve real-world business problems.
“TechMath: Real World Math, Technology, and Business Connections” is a three-year program linking businesses, teachers, students, and higher education to enhance rural, underserved student career potential in northeastern North Carolina (NC). TechMath addresses the current educational gap between real-world business and secondary education by arranging partnerships between local business and high school mathematics and science teachers. The tangible products of these partnerships are instructional modules incorporating local, real-world business problems into mathematics instruction. The local partnerships and the resulting instruction will empower the high percentage of underserved, underrepresented students of rural NC to pursue a wider range of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) career options. TechMath will actively serve a total of 48 high school teachers and 96 high school students from eight counties and ten school districts, and will impact 1800 additional students through instructional modules. The active partnerships, outpouring of support from local business leaders, and dissemination of the instructional modules will sustain the project’s goals beyond the three-year life of the project. Thirty-one business partners and ten school districts have committed to TechMath. This is a strong measure of the current and continuing support from the business and school community. Two equal-sized cohorts will be formed based on geographic proximity. Each cohort’s program will be similar in structure, specific to local business needs, and span two school years and one summer. The 2nd cohort will begin during the 1st cohort’s second year. The first year for each cohort will include emersion in technology and mathematics – as used by the business partners – culminating with the formation of a TechMath team consisting of mathematics or science teacher, two students, and a business partner. A two-week summer workshop will further expose the teams of teachers and students to real-world business problems and facilitate the development of instructional modules. The second year for each cohort will involve piloting, refining, and implementing instructional modules in the classroom with feedback and support from the TechMath staff, external evaluator, and business partners. This will promote continuing support, program continuity, encouragement, and the collection of research data. TechMath builds upon the premise that students want to learn material that can give them an advantage in the workforce. While mathematics and information technology (IT) skills are essential, typical classroom instruction does not provide students with the knowledge or skills necessary for the workforce nor do schools present students with the range of STEM career options available. Thus, TechMath supports teacher preparation and student workforce preparation through experiences with real-world STEM business problems. Broader awareness of how IT resources such as spreadsheets routinely solve real-world business problems is an educational imperative that TechMath will address. This will be done through active partnerships with businesses, creating a new teacher-student-business paradigm that highlights business problems and student instruction. This paradigm will result in new models, methods, and tools for mathematics education. Locally, permanent establishment of the paradigm will be achieved through the integration of TechMath in to ECU’s Department of Mathematics and Science Education pre-service and in-service teacher development programs and the continuing recruitment of business partners. More broadly, we will disseminate this new paradigm through traditional academic means (articles, professional meeting presentations, and advocacy with state boards of education) and enlist the aid of the local business community, the prime beneficiaries of this program, with dissemination to their community.