Academics & Faculty

Conference helps K–12 teachers breathe new life into their math classes

More than 250 mathematics teachers, educators and mathematicians, many from Los Angeles high schools and middle schools, will gather at UCLA on Saturday, March 15, to discuss strategies for reinvigorating classroom instruction.
"We want to make sure the time teachers spend here will genuinely benefit their students," said conference organizer Heather Calahan, executive director of the math department's Philip C. Curtis Jr. Center for Mathematics and Teaching, which is sponsoring the event. "Teachers who attend the instructional strategies sessions will leave with research-based lesson plans and hands-on activities that other teachers have found to be successful in the classroom.
"When you teach high school or middle school, you can forget what it is to learn and do mathematics," she said. "In the conference's mathematics sessions, we hope that teachers will get energized from learning something new. In the math/ed research sessions, we hope teachers learn about recent findings in the field."
Christoph Thiele, professor and chair of the UCLA Department of Mathematics, said, "It is very important that mathematicians be involved in mathematics education."
International research shows that a computational view of mathematics is prevalent in American classrooms. As a result, teachers who are products of the American educational system may have a narrow view of mathematics, said Calahan, a UCLA graduate who was a high school math teacher for 12 years in local schools.
"One of the goals of the conference and the center is to help expand teachers' views of mathematics and help them to provide students this robust view of mathematics," Calahan said. "UCLA Math wants young students to appreciate mathematics as a creative, problem-solving, reasoning activity and to learn the beautiful, elegant side of mathematics. There is much more to mathematics than computation."
Two days of preconference sessions will take place on March 13 and 14, attended by mathematicians from around the world in celebration of UCLA math professor emeritus Philip C. Curtis Jr.'s 80th birthday. Curtis, who advises the center, has devoted more than 30 years to improving the teaching of mathematics.
Saturday's mathematics education sessions will be held in UCLA's Mathematical Sciences Building from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will be presented by mathematics faculty from UCLA, the University of California and California State University, along with mathematics teachers and mathematics education researchers.
 "This collaboration is not so common but is a tradition in the UCLA Mathematics Department," Calahan said.
Saturday's keynote address by Zalman Usiskin, a professor of education at the University of Chicago, will address the current state of middle school and high school mathematics in the United States.
The Curtis Center, established last year by UCLA Mathematics, improves the quality of mathematics activity at the K–12 level by providing for the professional development of math teachers, preparing UCLA undergraduates for careers in mathematics teaching and teacher leadership, and providing outreach programs for K–12 students. The center also plans to be involved in mathematics education research.
"The UCLA Curtis program directors and I are former mathematics teachers who love teaching kids, understand the current K–12 scene and are working hard to help," said Calahan, who teaches a UCLA course for undergraduates planning to be math teachers.
Calahan praised Thiele for his emphasis and commitment to high-quality K–12 mathematics instruction.
The UCLA Department of Mathematics has been committed to improving the quality of math teaching in schools for more than 30 years, Thiele said.
For more information about the center and conference, visit

Registration for the conference is closed.


UCLA is California's largest university, with an enrollment of nearly 37,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university's 11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer more than 300 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletic programs. Four alumni and five faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize.

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