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Math education switches colleges

By Natasha Bhuyan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, April 16, 2004
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In an effort to increase the number of math teachers, the UA math education program is transitioning from the College of Education to the College of Science.

Sandy Garber, director of admissions for the College of Education, said the move began in the fall when the math department accumulated enough resources to offer a math education degree through the College of Science.

"The math education faculty are better able to recruit math majors to teaching and integrate mathematics into the professional education courses offered in the College of Science," Garber said.

The switch was made in response to a "nationwide push" to increase subject matter backgrounds for math and science teachers, said Debra Tomanek, director of the College of Science Teacher Preparation Program.

Math education majors will now graduate from the College of Science with a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts, said Chris Mikel, a math adviser.

Virginia Horak, an associate math professor who helped with the relocation, said she believes a long-term effect of the change will be a higher number of math education graduates.

"Some students like to have a degree in mathematics," she said. "It gives them flexibility in getting a job."

There are about 40 to 50 math education majors at the UA, Mikel said.

Science education majors experienced a similar transition in 2000, when they were moved from the College of Education to the College of Science.

Tim Slater, director of the UA Science and Math Education Center, said having the science education program under the College of Science has made it easier for science majors to acquire teaching degrees because they only need to add a minor within the same college.

"The major benefit is more students are going to be able to pursue teaching certifications," Slater said.

During the science education move, the College of Education and the College of Science both ran parallel programs for two years to make the transition smooth for students.

But rather than a two-year transition, the math education program is offering students more flexibility in their classes so as not to disrupt credits already accumulated.

Horak said students who were math education majors before the change are given the option of staying within the College of Education or moving to the College of Science.

Most students chose to stay in the College of Education in order to graduate this spring, but incoming math education students are automatically entered into the College of Science.

Jeff McCabe, a math education junior, called the change a "good move."

"Many education classes did not really apply to math ed, and now, supposedly, the program is much more focused on math and teaching it," he said.

Sara Blight, a math education senior, said advisers have been helpful in making each student's transition smooth.

"It has been a good switch because it encourages math education majors to concentrate more on their math proficiency as well as teaching skills," Blight said.

But Katherine Ruiz, a mathematics sophomore, said the transition has been complicated because it is new for students, as well as those in charge.

"Everyone is trying to get used to it," she said.

Slater said a downside to the change is that potential science and math teachers will have limited opportunities to interact with other education majors. But the benefits "far outweigh" the disadvantages, he added.

Tomanek pointed out that having the program in the College of Science will give students more access to math professors.

Under the new program, students will have to fulfill fewer credits because a minor is not required, as it is for secondary education majors in the College of Education, Mikel said.

"The difference is about 12 credits between the two programs," Mikel said. "Students in our program will have no difficulty finishing the degree in four years."

Horak said she hopes to see math education students graduating from the College of Science as early as next year.

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