During the last few years, the UNO mathematics department has been coordinating a grant from Building Bright Futures (buildingbrightfutures.net) that is aimed at impacting area students at the critical crossroads between arithmetic to formula algebraic thinking. UNO's Michael Matthews is the Co-PI of the project along with Dr. Jack Heidel.
Mathematics majors and others who have been identified as being strong at mathematics have been hired as Mathematics Teacher Assistants to help out in local area middle schools during eighth grade pre-algebra classes. Forty-one MTAs work in eight area middle schools, impacting approximately 1,000 students.
During the 2010-2011 school year, all of the OPS teachers who had MTAs in their classrooms were given surveys in which they were asked to consider the benefits and challenges related to having an MTA in their classroom. Some of the teachers indicated that having a MTA impacted their planning and directly affected how they taught the students in a positive way. On a survey provided by Matthews, one teacher said, "The MTA allows me the freedom to create lessons that don’t require a whole group lesson. I can use my MTA to lead part of the class in an activity while I teach the concept to a smaller group of the class. This allows those kids who struggle to participate to have less of an audience when they voice their questions. Collaborating with another 'Math Thinker' was the most professionally rewarding experience in terms of the MTA program."
Several MTAs plan on being teachers themselves one day and the experience as an MTA was professionally beneficial to many of them. One MTA said, "Personally I have got to know a lot of the students and they look forward to seeing me and working with me. On a professional level I have learned lots of concepts and ideas on how to teach and address classroom management for when I become a teacher and have my own classroom."
More details at: http://buildingbrightfutures.net