Question: If one math educator works for 30 years at a steady rate of speed to improve the teaching of mathematics, touching innumerable students and teachers each year, what is the result?
Answer: Dr. Barbara Moses wins the 2009 Kenneth Cummins Award, presented by the Ohio Council of Teachers of Mathematics to the top college-level math teacher in Ohio.
Like the Kent State University math professor for whom the award is named, Moses is known for her deep love of mathematics—a love she has felt since she was in middle school and that has inspired her to help students learn, and teachers teach, math better.
Moses has had an impact on individual students in the classroom and on the teaching of math nationally, as well as on the recruitment and preparation of the next generation of middle- and high-school math teachers.
On the individual level, her approach is based on her philosophy that “all students can be successful in mathematics,” “math is useful, beautiful and enjoyable,” and that “math lesson planning needs to have flexibility and spontaneity,” she said. Her emphasis is on teaching students to ask powerful questions.
“Every student is unique and comes to my class with their own learning style and their own math background,” Moses said. “It is my job to work with these students as they are, and not as I wish they were. I encourage risk-taking during the class period.”
On the broader level, she is the principal investigator and director of Science and Mathematics Education in Action, funded by a five-year, $3 million grant from the Ohio Board of Regents. The program awards scholarships to incoming freshmen who show the potential to become excellent teachers of middle-school math and science.
Moses and her teams have received more than $5 million in external funding. Moses’ research focuses on visualization in algebraic thinking, and she is co-author, with retired faculty member Dr. Alice Calderonello, of Algebra for Teachers and editor of the 1999 book Algebraic Thinking, Grades K-12.
Moses was the founding director, in 2002, of COSMOS (Center of Excellence in Science and Mathematics: Opportunities for Success) at BGSU. The collaborative center is designed to help produce more and better-prepared math and science teachers. More than 200 K-12 teachers and university faculty participate each month in inquiry-based teaching presentations and activities. COSMOS has also attracted attention outside northwest Ohio. Moses was asked by the Mathematical Association of America to lead a Preparing Mathematicians to Educate Teachers workshop at BGSU, which was attended by mathematics faculty from universities throughout the country to learn about appropriate curriculum for the preparation of middle school math teachers.
A talk by Moses on the importance to society of math education and teacher preparation—and of countering the disturbing decline in interest in math and science—helped shape the direction of a $1 million gift to BGSU in 2004 and resulted in Moses being named the first recipient of the Bailey Family Endowed Professorship in Mathematics.