Next year, when Naomi Klarreich is not developing new theories to help physicists understand the nature of space and time, she'll be working to improve the quality of math instruction in the Cleveland public schools.
Thanks to a $655,000 National Science Foundation grant, she and two other postdoctoral mathematics fellows from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and one from Cleveland State University will spend half their time doing research and half working with the local schools. Each will receive a $35,000 stipend.
This is the first time the NSF has awarded fellowships for math Ph.D.s to work in K-12 schools to improve math teaching, according to David Singer, a math professor at Case Western.
The four fellows will help Cleveland teachers identify exemplary materials and practices, oversee local math competitions, and even revive dormant after-school clubs devoted to the subject. They will also devise materials teachers can use to show students how to solve the new multi- step, open-ended problems on state proficiency exams.
About a fifth of Cleveland seniors who took the state's 9th-grade proficiency tests last year failed the math portion. "When you have hundreds of students in 12th grade who have not yet achieved 9th-grade proficiency, that's a very serious problem," Mr. Singer said.
The NSF fellows will be assigned two mentors--one from their university to guide them in their postdoctoral research, and one from the public schools to help them identify fundamental elements of good math instruction.
"I think there is a potential for magic," Mr. Singer said. "What we are looking at is young, enthusiastic mathematicians who know a lot of math, are very excited about it, and want to share this with other people. We can't solve all the problems of the Cleveland public schools, but I think we can make enough of a difference to make it worthwhile."
Science Education News, a newsletter of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is now available on-line on the AAAS home page on the World Wide Web. An index of current and back issues can be found in the Education and Human Resources section of the Web site at http://www.AAAS.org.
Also found on the AAAS home page is the association's journal Science; information about Project 2061, its science-education reform effort; and an interactive site about "Kinetic City Super Crew," the group's science-based radio drama for children.