Focus on Mathematics is a Mathematics and Science Partnership built on three traditions, each with decades of history:

  • the Boston University (BU) professional development program PROMYS for Teachers,
  • work at Education Development Center (EDC) in professional development and preservice preparation, and
  • the National Science Foundation (NSF) Teacher Institutes of 35 years ago

The project is directed by Glenn Stevens, Professor of Mathematics at BU, and Al Cuoco, Distinguished Scholar at EDC. Drs. Stevens and Cuoco also work closely with representatives from partner organizations, the Massachusetts school districts of Arlington, Cambridge, Framingham, Lawrence, and Watertown and mathematicians from multiple Massachusetts based universities. 

The partnership starts from three basic assumptions:

  1. Distributed expertise: Teachers, educators, and mathematicians all bring unique and essential talents to the effort to increase student achievement. The success of the partnership depends on our ability to “combine forces” in a way that creates a permanent community of experts. Our community involves seminars, colloquia, co-teaching of classes, study groups, mathematics research projects, curriculum reviews, summer institutes, and other opportunities for mathematicians, educators, teachers, and students to work together. 
  2. Mathematics at the core: School districts face an astonishing array of challenges in their work to improve student achievement. The Focus on Mathematics partnership centers on one very important aspect of this work: putting rigorous mathematics at the center of students’ work, teachers’ professional development, and prospective teachers’ preparation.
  3. Teacher leadership: The only way to sustain content-based professional development is to put it in the hands of mathematically expert teachers. 

We have been building and are maintaining a community of mathematicians, teachers, and educators, all working together to help our students and teachers understand mathematics in ways that are faithful to the ways in which professional mathematicians and scientists think about the discipline. The NSF review panel recognized the importance of this approach, saying that:

“Building a lasting mathematical community of mathematicians, educators, and teachers is a unique, novel, and splendid feature of this program, and it can sow the seeds of a new mathematical culture in the country.”

Building a community from different cultures, especially from cultures with such different traditions, is never easy. But the partnership is founded on the belief that such a community is the only mechanism for breaking the cycle of frustration, disillusionment, and eventual abandonment of mathematics that plagues such a large subset of our society.