History and Goals
The Rice University School Mathematics Project (RUSMP) was established in 1987 in order to provide a bridge between the Rice University mathematics research community and Houston-area mathematics teachers. RUSMP has received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the United States Department of Education Eisenhower and Teacher Quality Programs, and from corporations, foundations and school districts.
Our mission is to create a better understanding of the nature, beauty, and importance of mathematics and to promote effective teaching of mathematics. RUSMP's mission has expanded to include supporting science, technology, engineering, and the arts as they relate to mathematics. Our approach is grounded in research that supports our belief that sustained instructional changes can best be cultivated through the development of professionalism among science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teachers and the creation of a network of teachers who have extensive knowledge of both content and pedagogy.
RUSMP's major goal is to increase the content and pedagogical knowledge of PreK-12 STEM teachers and support them in implementing more effective programs. In order to achieve this goal, RUSMP
- increases the STEM knowledge of Houston-area teachers,
- promotes and models effective teaching and assessment of mathematics as it relates to the other STEM disciplines and the arts with active student involvement in the learning process,
- encourages the appropriate use of instructional tools in the teaching of STEM disciplines,
- provides strategies to actively engage struggling students, English language learners, and underrepresented minorities in learning the STEM disciplines so that all students have the best possible instruction in these fields,
- provides a forum for communication and collaboration between and among teachers, university faculty, and the community,
- develops teachers' leadership capacity,
- supports instructional leaders in designing effective programs in STEM disciplines and better supporting their teachers,
- creates innovative curricular materials for STEM disciplines,
- assists developers of STEM programs and curricula,
- conducts research on important aspects of STEM education, and
- promotes research-based teaching and learning of STEM disciplines.
RUSMP has developed an extensive array of programs, courses, and interventions available to teachers and administrators. These include long-term, intensive summer programs; after-school academic-year courses; personalized professional development for schools which may include workshops along with classroom support; seminars for teachers and leaders; and opportunities for networking across schools and districts.
RUSMP's Theoretical Framework
The theory of action that guides RUSMP's work is based on research which has led to such documents as:
- National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM]: Standards (1989, 1991, 1995, 2000), Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten through Grade 8 Mathematics (2006);
- National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers: Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (2010);
- National Research Council: Everybody Counts (1989), Adding It Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics (2001), and Educating Teachers of Science, Mathematics, and Technology: New Practices for the New Millennium (2001); and
- National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics: The PRIME Leadership Framework: Principles and Indicators for Mathematics Education Leaders (2008), and It's TIME: Themes and Imperatives for Mathematics Education (2014).
- Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA): CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards (2011)
- American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): Project 2061 - Benchmarks for Science Literacy (1993)
- National Research Council: A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2012)
- National Research Council (NRC), National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and Achieve: Next Generation Science Standards (2013)
RUSMP programs focus on teachers' competence in content-knowledge and pedagogical skills, while integrating and promoting the need for teachers to care about all their students, especially their ethnically diverse students. RUSMP programs provide a model for teaching STEM from a problem-solving approach. A problem-solving approach is especially valuable for teachers of underrepresented and underserved students. If students become good problem solvers in their STEM classes, then they are likely to use these apply these problem-solving skills inside and outside the classroom. Giving underrepresented and underserved students these problem-solving skills provides a way to help them become more successful in school and ultimately contributes to lowering dropout rates.
Improving teachers' understanding of the concepts developed in RUSMP programs increases student understanding of the concepts. Students with a sound understanding of these concepts are more likely to pursue the study of more advanced STEM courses. The Educational Policy Improvement Center notes in its Texas College Readiness Standards that "students who enter college having mastered [the college readiness standards] are likely to be successful in entry-level college mathematics courses and to be prepared for courses in related disciplines that require mathematical proficiency." This includes four years of instruction in rigorous mathematics and science coursework which is especially important for minority and female students and English language learners who are underrepresented in advanced STEM courses.
All major RUSMP projects are supported by in-depth evaluation and research, which provide valuable information for continuous improvement of our programs. In this way, RUSMP contributes to the growing body of research relevant to STEM education.