CMSE Tackles Increasing Teacher Shortage with Middle Math Institutes

More than 40 educators have earned teaching endorsement through special program

A group of people participating in an educational activity inside a classroom. One woman, seated and wearing a gray shirt, raises her arms while another woman in a purple shirt measures her reach using a measuring tape. Charts with data and graphs are displayed on the walls, and various classroom materials and equipment are scattered on the tables. Several other participants are engaged in similar activities in the background, creating an active learning environment.

OXFORD, Miss. – A record 18 educators completed a summer program at the University of Mississippi aimed at reducing the growing middle school math teacher shortage statewide.

The UM Center for Mathematics and Science Education wrapped up its Middle Math Institutes on Thursday (June 27), where participants became eligible to add on a Mississippi Department of Education endorsement to teach math classes in grades 7-8. 

Mississippi educator shortages increased last school year from 4,988 to 5,012 vacancies across the state, according to the MDE. There were 149 middle school math teacher vacancies during 2023-24, accounting for the largest shortage of the 422 middle school teacher vacancies reported. 

After five years teaching in Holmes County Consolidated School District, Vantashia Jones will teach at Goodloe Elementary in Canton next year. She finished the middle school math program because she knows how serious the teacher shortage is and she wants to be prepared to step in if there is a need.  

“Math is just one of those subjects where you say math and people are running out the door,” Jones said. 

“It’s very hard to get math teachers and I’m like, OK, why not do something that I really enjoy doing and that I know is part of a subject where I can reach students.”  

While programs such as Mississippi Teacher Corps or Teach for America help meet the need for teachers in hard-to-staff areas, those teachers are often assigned to those areas for a limited amount of time, said Julie James, assistant director of professional learning for CMSE.  

The only program of its kind in the state, the Middle Math Institutes were created in 2021 as an alternative pathway for licensed teachers to become certified to teach middle school level math, filling vacancies with qualified educators already invested in rural and critical shortage communities.  

The program consists of four “content institutes”: 

  • Numbers, systems, ratios and proportions 
  • Expressions, equations and functions 
  • Geometry 
  • Statistics and probability. 

Emily Gladwell (left) participates in an interactive activity about X and Y axes during the Middle Math Institutes at the Center for Mathematics and Science Education. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

The hands-on, practical curriculum equips teachers with the skills to help students develop a complete understanding of math concepts, going beyond surface-level understanding and drawing connections between content, procedures and strategies to help students learn. 

“Studies have shown us that you’re going to teach the way you were taught,” said Alice Steimle, instructional assistant professor of teacher education and director for the CMSE. 

“Many of us were taught procedural mathematics without necessarily understanding the ‘why’ behind it. To truly understand mathematics and build a strong mathematical foundation, the conceptual understanding is very important.” 

Forty-two teachers have completed the Middle Math Institutes since 2021, and its benefits are not just appreciated by educators without a mathematics background.  

Emily Gladwell, an eighth-grade math teacher at Batesville Junior High, completed the program this June to expand her knowledge and pedagogy as she works to become a math education consultant. 

“Coming to programs like this teaches me new strategies that I can use to help other teachers because that’s what I want to do,” she said. 

“It’s very hands-on and that’s one thing that we’ve gotten away from because we let technology kind of come in and be overpowering in our instruction. This shows kids how to manipulate and if they’re able to do it with their hands, it’s going to stick.” 

Earning a passing score on the Middle Level Math Praxis Exam or taking 18 hours of college-level math courses are also ways to achieve a middle school math endorsement.  

The institutes are offered in person each summer or in a virtual format during the school year. One online institute is offered each semester, and teachers can complete the content institutes in any order. 

Learn more about the Middle Math Institutes here. 

Top: Teachers take measurements for visitors to safely be able to raise their arms on hypothetical roller coaster as part of an exercise for the Middle Math Institutes at the Center for Mathematics and Science Education. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services


Marvis Herring


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July 01, 2024