Be a leader in mathematics education for children.
You can find the official college information about the major here (I wrote some of that too), but on my site I want to give some more personalized, informal information about our program to help you decide if it might be right for you.
(Kristen Brock, Wheelock Class of ’10. Kristen is majoring in the Interdisciplinary Math/Science Major. Note the beautiful polyhedral models in the background, made by last year’s geometry class, as well as the math curricula on the bookshelves. Kristen is in my Discrete Math class, which meets in the Math Science Education Center).
What’s Special About the Math Major at Wheelock?
Our math major is designed to help you become a leader in math education for children. A leader might mean that one day you become the fourth grade teacher in your hometown who all the other teachers come to for advice on teaching math, or it might mean that you go on to graduate school in mathematics education (perhaps after teaching for a few years to get some experience), and then develop new ways of teaching math.
(Christie Millar ’11 and a math major — didn’t get permission to use his name yet — using geometry software. Christie is a Theater Major with a Minor in Math)
Very few colleges have a math major that’s focused on preparing preK-8 teachers. Most math majors are aimed at preparing students to go to graduate school in math or to work in industry or to become high school teachers, etc. If you want to do those sorts of things with your major, then Wheelock probably isn’t the best college for you. But if you love math, and if you love working with younger children, then Wheelock could be a very good fit.
(Mary DellaPosta, at the smartboard, working on logic. Mary will graduate from Wheelock this December, with a Math Major and a Professional Major in Early Childhood Education. She was the winner of the First Annual Walter Burke Award, given to a student who demonstrates enthusiasm for science or math, and shares that enthusiasm with children in a teaching or other community setting.)
Many of the math instructors at Wheelock also have experience teaching children or studying math education. While the courses are rigorous math courses, we also make frequent connections to teaching children, since that’s what most of our students are planning to do. For example, in my class this week, we were talking about some of the details of logic — material that is pretty confusing for most people at first. I mentioned that mastering this material will help them as teachers make sense of what their students are actually saying versus what they are trying to say.
(Meredith Race ’11 leading an activity for some fourth graders. Meredith is a Philosophy Major with a professional Major in Elementary Education. After she took her introductory math sequence, she became a math leader, as did several other students on this page. BTW, I don’t have as many pictures of Wheelock students with kids as I’d like; the kids need to be facing away from the camera, and we didn’t plan for that when we took the photos. We are working on a program where we are partnering with a school in a low-income area of Boston, and we are hoping children from all grades will be able come to Wheelock twice a year to work on math/science and get an early start on aiming for college )
Wheelock students have many field experiences, starting from their first semester. In our introductory math courses, students plan lessons for a group of children who come to visit our classes. Many Math Majors participate as Math Leaders — students who lead weekly study groups for other students, and who take a seminar to reflect on both the math and the teaching issues that come up (they get paid too!)
What Classes Would I Take?
All Wheelock students with a Professional Major or Minor in Education start with a Concepts and Processes Sequence — a three semester (or a two semester honors intensive) sequence that helps you get a very deep understanding of elementary math (Do you know why the way you learned to multiply numbers works? Could you find five other ways to multiply numbers? What about fractions?) These courses also focus on processes — how to approach unfamiliar problems, to communicate with others and to justify your reasoning.
(Girl Scout Day. Last year students from my Intensive Concepts and Processes Class developed activities to use with fourth graders from a Boston Public School. Kayla Drescher ’12, Jenna Thompson ’12, and Kevin Kareckas ’12 also volunteered to come in on a Saturday and lead some girl scouts in their activity, which involved exploring bubbles and polyhedral models. Kayla is now a Performing Arts Major, Jenna is a Math/Science Major, and Kevin is a Science Major. Kayla and Kevin have Professional Majors in Elementary Education and Jenna has a Professional Major in Special Education.)
After the introductory sequence, there are three required intermediate courses that build on the material you’ve already learned — Geometry, Algebra and Number Theory, and Probability and Statistics. These are college-level math classes that focus on the math content most relevant to elementary teachers.
(Tamara Pace-Emerson ’12 at the computer in her Geometry class. Tam is a Math Major with a Professional Major in Elementary Education.)
The major includes at least two math electives, as well as a required seminar where you explore open-ended problems in depth.
(Kelly Hanson ’10. Kelly is a Math Major, with an education minor. Kelly was excited about putting photos on this site, and she took several of them — although I wasn’t paying attention, so I’m not sure which ones; definitely the one of Mary. She is in my Discrete Mathematics class, one of the advanced electives).
If you’re interested in Wheelock, here’s information about admissions. They can give you much more information and answer many of your questions. Also feel free to leave a question on this site or to contact me at dborkovitz at wheelock dot edu.
I know I’m biased, but I think we have a great program for students who want to be leaders in math education for children…. and I’d love to see the program grow. The work is so important — too many elementary teachers don’t really like math. At Wheelock we do help many of those future teachers come to appreciate the subject more, but we also need more people going into teaching who love math and want to share that love with children.
(On my home page, in the little box, is Jeniffer Garcia ’11. Jeniffer is a Math Major with a Professional Major in Elementary Education).