UCSD Launches New Math and Science Education Program
By Sherry Seethaler | October 9, 2006
If you build it, they will come. With all the conviction
of Ray Kinsella in the movie "Field of Dreams,"
a group of faculty and staff from UCSD’s Division
of Physical Sciences and Education Studies did build
it, and they did come—not to a baseball diamond
in an Iowa corn field, but to a brand new math and
science education program at UCSD.
Method invented by Ed, age seven, for solving division problems:
Problem: How much is 42 divided by 7?
Ed’s Answer: 40 divided by 10 is 4; 3 and 3 and 3 and 3 are 12; 12 plus 2 is 14; 14 divided by 2 is 7; 2 plus 4 is 6.
For an explanation of Ed’s solution, click
More than 50 students have expressed an interest
in the program. The freshman seminars, which begin
this week (Teaching Math: The Challenge and Teaching
Science: The Challenge), will provide a brief but
tantalizing introduction to how diverse learners solve
math and science problems and how effective teaching
is rooted in a deep understanding of how people learn.
To illustrate why effective teaching requires much
more than a solid grasp of the subject matter, Guershon
Harel, a professor in the mathematics department,
presented examples of young students’ reasoning
at a program recruitment meeting for undergraduates. The
undergraduates were dazzled by the mathematical creativity
of one 7-year old, who did not let the fact that he
had not been taught division stop him from correctly
solving division problems. He invented his own method.
“It is essential to respect students’ ideas by understanding these ideas well enough to build on them, rather than simply giving students a formula to memorize,” explained Harel.
“Another aspect of respect is appreciating
the social and cultural context students are coming
from,” added Luz Chung, a lecturer in education
studies. “Therefore, in this program you will
have the opportunity to work with diverse students
in variety of different types of schools.”
UCSD’s new minors in science education and
mathematics education are part of the UC-wide California
Teach program. Governor Schwarzenegger and UC
President Robert C. Dynes launched California Teach
last year in an effort to dramatically increase the
number of science and math high school and middle
school teachers produced by the UC system. California
is currently producing about half of the secondary
math and science teachers it needs, according to figures
from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing
and the California Department of Education.
The goal of California Teach, which is based on University
of Texas at Austin’s successful UTeach program,
is to attract students to teaching early in their
undergraduate studies. Students will still need to
enroll in a teacher credentialing program after they
complete their bachelor’s degree, but they will
be eligible to become intern teachers who are paid
to teach while they complete the requirements for
California Teach has different flavors at each UC
campus. UCSD is the first campus to introduce new
minors as a part of California Teach. UCSD’s
new minors bring together faculty in the sciences,
mathematics and education. The partnership bridges
a gap characteristic of most teacher education programs,
in which courses in psychology, learning and development
are “tacked onto”students’ science
or mathematics coursework.
These elements will be truly blended together in
UCSD’s new minors, so that students think deeply
about teaching and learning in the context of the
science and mathematics subject matter. Therefore,
the minors are not only ideal for students with an
interest in teaching at the K-12, community college
or undergraduate level, but also students who are
simply curious about their own learning and who would
like to become better learners.
|Barbara Sawrey (right)
“According to the National Science Foundation,
across the country only half of incoming freshman
planning to major in science, math or engineering
actually go on to obtain degrees in those areas,”
said Barbara Sawrey, vice chair for education in the
department of chemistry and biochemistry. “We
hope that by helping students reflect deeply on their
own learning, we will succeed in increasing the retention
of science, math and engineering majors.”
And with the growing concern over America’s global competitiveness, that would certainly be a home run.
To visit the Science and Math Education Program web-site, please click