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Teachers learn from students during NMSU MathLab summer program

Elementary, middle and high school students in 17 classrooms across New Mexico, including New Mexico State University, are helping their teachers improve their teaching skills by participating in the NMSU Mathematically Connected Communities, or MC2, MathLab this week.

Photo of two boys sorting through measurements.
Students participated in a scavenger hunt Monday at O’Donnell Hall as part of the MC2 MathLab summer program. Students searched for objects measured in fractions of a foot, then wrote a description of what they found. (NMSU photo by Adriana M. Chavez)
Photo of a boy assembling a bean and cheese burrito.
Students in Algebra 1 made bean and cheese burritos in class Monday at O'Donnell Hall as part of the MC2 MathLab summer program. Students in the class counted the burritos’ calories and other nutritional data, then graphed the inequalities. (NMSU photo by Adriana M. Chavez)

MathLab began Monday at University Hills Elementary School and NMSU in Las Cruces, and sites in Artesia, Pojoaque, Los Lunas and Gallup. About 480 students entering grades 2, 3, 4 and 7 and Algebra 1 are participating in the program, along with more than 350 teachers.

“I like the group work, but my favorite part about MathLab was the Yahtzee game. I am learning a lot about equivalent and improper fractions and mixed numbers,” said Caleb Parra, a fifth grade student from Las Cruces Public Schools.

During the morning sessions, students learn from MC2 teacher leaders while teacher participants observe them via live video stream in adjacent classrooms. Students in second and third grade focus on additive and multiplicative thinking, grade 5 students learn about the application of fractions, grade 7 students study ratios and proportions, and the Algebra 1 topic for middle and high school students is conceptual learning of systems of equations and inequalities. In the afternoon, participants discuss which math practices worked best and the impact on student learning. In addition, teachers participate in professional learning based on the same core math concepts that students are learning.

Doreen Cahill, second grade teacher participant from Alamogordo Public Schools, said she feels MathLab is beneficial to all elementary students because they give teachers insights into how students think.

“What’s most important to teachers is to help students in their individual thinking,” Cahill said.

The MathLab program, now in its third year, includes mathematicians from NMSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, MC2 teacher leaders and staff, Creative Media Institute faculty, and New Mexico educators. District and school administrators are provided with the opportunity to attend a leadership academy on the final two days of the week in three locations. About 75 are attending this year.

“This has been such a great experience collaborating as professionals from around the state and at the same time getting kids excited about thinking deeply about mathematics and questioning how they think about math,” said Allie Conway, a grade 5 Las Cruces MathLab teacher leader.

MathLab is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the New Mexico Public Education Department Literacy & Early Childhood and Math & Science Bureaus, and the New Mexico Higher Education Department’s Math-Science Partnership Program. The Las Cruces Families and Youth Inc.’s Summer Food Program is providing students with breakfast.

For more information about MC2 Math Lab, contact Sara Morales at smorales@nmsu.edu, or Wanda Bulger-Tamez at wguzman@nmsu.edu.