New NSF Grant Targets Elementary Mathematics Leaders

A new $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant will train and develop 24 elementary mathematics leaders in the Columbia and Independence Public School Districts.

Corey Webel
Corey Webel

Corey Webel, an Associate Professor of Mathematics Education in the Department of Learning, Teaching and Curriculum, is leading the six-year project, which is a partnership with the University of Central Missouri (UCM) and the Missouri Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Previous research has shown that employing mathematics specialists as leaders in elementary schools is a practical way for districts to improve the mathematical content knowledge of all elementary teachers.

“Teaching elementary mathematics is complex and requires more expertise than can typically be developed during undergraduate preparation,” said Webel.

“When we put mathematics leaders into schools, we can help facilitate the continuous learning that needs to occur throughout a career and establish systems for ongoing improvement within and across schools. This will ultimately better prepare students for success at higher grade levels.”

Corey Webel

Webel said the partnership will allow for the program’s classes to be held in district buildings and will encourage leaders to implement improvements that are tailored to their home districts. The program also features integration with undergraduate teacher preparation at MU and UCM, a component that will help beginning teachers develop foundational mathematics teaching practices.

“One of the most exciting parts of this project is that prospective teachers will have leaders with specialized knowledge and skills who can model effective practice in real teaching situations,” said Webel. “The leaders get valuable experience leading groups of prospective teachers in guided studies of how elementary students respond to specific mathematics lessons, which will help all participants better understand and support student thinking more broadly. It’s really a win-win for everyone.”

Leaders will earn a master’s degree as part of the program. The project “Supporting Leaders in Elementary Mathematics Teaching in Missouri” is supported by the Robert Noyce Teaching Scholarship Program.