PRIME Center program aids math, science education - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

PRIME Center program aids math, science education

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Posted: Friday, October 17, 2008 6:51 pm | Updated: 10:49 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Students struggling with math skills and teachers wanting to learn new math teaching concepts can now get help through the Center for Practice, Research and Innovation in Mathematics Education, or the PRIME Center.

The center opened this year on the Arizona State University Polytechnic campus in Mesa through the School of Educational Innovation and Teacher Preparation.

Help is provided through a math lab filled with colorful textbooks, games and activities. Tutors, summer camps, parent and teacher workshops, and a speaker series are just some of the ways the PRIME Center is helping students improve their math skills, said Mary Cavanagh, the center's executive director.

"It's not so much people have gotten dumber over the years. The expectations now are more demanding," said Cavanagh, a former elementary math teacher in California. "We need more students stronger in math, science and technology to fulfill the needs of the workplace so we don't have to go to other countries to find people with those skills."

Besides the state and the country lagging behind in math comprehension, there is also a shortage of new math teachers. One goal of the center is to increase the number of math teachers by offering scholarships and programs to gear students to work in that direction.

"We need to reach teachers so they have some good teaching strategies and convey their pleasure and enjoyment of math to students, rather than this thing we have to do every day," said Cavanagh, who co-authored five math textbook series, including the math books now used in the Mesa Unified School District.

Barbara Kinach, an associate professor in math education, said students in her early childhood math methods class use the lab to research early number concepts, and students in her elementary math class use the lab to conduct teaching performance assessments.

"Rather than a written assessment, they actually have to demonstrate how they might model a teaching concept," said Kinach, adding the school recently hired three math education and three science education teachers. "This gives them an opportunity to explain a particular concept before they actually have to go into a classroom and do it in front of a group of children."

The Prime the Pipeline project is the newest program run through the PRIME Center. The project is for Higley, Gilbert, Mesa and Chandler district high school sophomores interested in math, science, technology and engineering.

The students will get the chance to work with ASU professors, local engineers and high school teachers in a three-year project that allows them to earn college credit.

More information is available on the PRIME Center at

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