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$10M grant creates math center


By Joe Ferguson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, August 30, 2004
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Federal grant lets UA departments teach Tucson's Latino K-8 students math basics

A $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation will create the Center for the Mathematics Education of Latinos and Latinas (CEMELA) here at the UA.

The center is being formed by a partnership between the UA's department of language, reading and culture in the College of Education and the UA's mathematics department in the College of Science.

Luis Moll, an associate dean at the College of Education, said the center will work to raise the level of mathematics education in the rapidly growing Latino community.

Moll said the primary goal of CEMELA is to work with Latino students in mathematics in kindergarten through eighth grade to eventually improve the mathematics education of working-class Latinos.

"(Latinos') school performance is not where it should be right now," said Moll.

Moll cited a recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) study, in which the scores for Latinos in the field of math were among the lowest of all racial and ethnic groups. The study tested students in the fourth and eighth grades.

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We will build the highest quality programs to meet the standards based on the No Child Left Behind requirements. Virginia Horak, associate mathematics professor
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Moll said the growing number of Latino students, primarily in low-income schools, was a major factor in seeking the establishment of CEMELA.

"They are going to be the new majority," said Moll, referring to census data predicting an increase in Latino students.

Mathematics professor Marta Civil said the primary focus of the center would be to educate existing teachers in the field as well as to teach new instructors methods for appealing to Latinos when teaching mathematics.

The UA has partnered with the Sunnyside and Tucson Unified school districts to help Latino students in mathematics. Civil said that UA graduate students would study existing programs in the school districts and help teachers build specialized curricula to help struggling students.

Associate mathematics professor Virginia Horak said CEMELA would also work to fulfill federal guidelines in education.

"We will build the highest-quality programs to meet the standards based on the No Child Left Behind requirements," said Horak.

The No Child Left Behind Act is an educational initiative that was signed by President Bush in January 2002. The act gives funding to schools and allows flexible teaching methods in order to improve education in schools. The act, however, requires accountability within the schools, pushing every school to meet national standards.

The first activity for CEMELA will be a conference next month with its partners in education - the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of California-Santa Cruz and the University of New Mexico. The grant was awarded this month by the National Science Foundation; consequently, funding has not been finalized.

Horak said they hoped to have funding for graduate students working for CEMELA next semester.

"We hope to have them on board," said Horak.

More information on CEMELA will be available in the next few weeks at http://cemela.math.arizona.edu.



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