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Grant targets math instruction in Pittsburgh Public Schools

| Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, 11:51 p.m.

Pittsburgh Public Schools has won a $3.4 million grant to help more students take Advanced Placement classes in math, get better grades in the subject and attend college without having to take remedial math.

The Education Development Center, a Washington nonprofit, will award the money over five years from $8 million it received from the National Science Foundation. The grant targets about 13,000 students in grades 6-12.

“We want to reduce what we perceive as an opportunity gap in this district,” said Chuck Munter, assistant professor of mathematics education at the University of Pittsburgh.

Pitt is the school district's partner on the grant along with the center, Carnegie Mellon and Duquesne universities. Duquesne will evaluate the effectiveness of the project. Pitt and Carnegie Mellon will train teachers.

The school board will discuss the grant on Wednesday and vote on whether to accept it at the Oct. 23 meeting.

“You're going to see students engaging in mathematics in ways similar to what ... mathematicians would be doing,” said Jeff Ziegler, curriculum supervisor for grades 6-12 math in the district.

Educators say the grant will change the way math is taught in the city. Much of math instruction now focuses on the result, said Al Cuoco, distinguished scholar at the Education Development Center.

“One of the goals is to elevate the methods of coming up with a solution and thinking about it to the same level of importance as the results themselves,” he said.

Jerri Lynn Lippert, chief academic officer for the district, said the project will help it meet the new Common Core standards. She said district officials hope the grant will reduce the achievement gap between white and black students in math.

More white students than black students in the district scored at a proficient or advanced level on state math tests in 2011-12. The difference was nearly 30 percentage points.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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