The mission of Math for America is to improve mathematics and science education in US public secondary schools by building a corps of outstanding STEM teachers and leaders. Our goal is to support those outstanding STEM teachers already in the classroom and to increase the number of mathematically talented individuals entering teaching.
Our vision is to dramatically change mathematics and science education over the next decade throughout America in order to keep our country competitive. While we hope to launch secondary school students into careers in mathematics and science, we also want students to become successful professionals who know and use mathematics in the world.
Math for America was created to serve as a national education model and to ensure that public secondary school students receive the best possible mathematics and science education.
The MƒA Values
MƒA believes in accountability, but complex accountability.
We should have well-articulated expectations for teachers. They should know their subject with sufficient depth not only to be competent but also to be creative. They should have passion for their subject so they can inspire their students and engage them in real learning. They should be craftsmen at the intricate task of explaining, motivating, and cultivating a thirst for knowledge. These things can be judged, and they are part of a much larger set of expectations that define what it is to be an accomplished teacher. Student test scores for accomplished teachers usually rise as well, but this is a consequence of being accomplished, not its definition.
MƒA focuses on inputs rather than outputs.
The ultimate quality of education is determined by the quality of the inputs to the system—great teachers, an excellent curriculum, a well structured school environment, and so forth. Focusing on outputs rather than inputs often replaces accountability for true professionalism (knowing your subject and inspiring your students) with something shallower and easier to achieve (prepping students for tests). In any case, when we consider outputs they should be of real value—students' eventual success as citizens, their leadership in science and business, or the intellectual vitality of public life—not something as trivial as test scores.
MƒA takes a nuanced view of data.
Test data can be valuable, but the uncritical use of statistics to make decisions (which teachers are effective, which schools are progressing, which reforms work best) is not only bad education but often bad mathematics. Drawing conclusions from statistically insignificant differences, confusing correlation with causality, and inappropriately aggregating data are common mistakes in policy discussions. As a mathematically based organization, MƒA promotes the responsible use of statistics.
MƒA trusts and respects teachers.
Much of the current public discourse suggests teachers are untrustworthy and need ever more stringent evaluation. Professionals who are treated with appropriate respect and trust will eventually step up to earn them. Math for America begins with the premise that many of our teachers are already consummate professionals and that showing them respect is the best way to retain them. MƒA teachers uniformly mention this as one of the program's most valuable features.
MƒA focuses on the accomplished.
Much current education reform concentrates on teachers who need fixing. Math for America concentrates instead on those who don’t. Our teachers are already accomplished professionals, and as such they serve as models, both for other teachers and for those who might consider teaching as a career. Of course, like all professionals, MƒA teachers get better. But they get better by working with each other, using the infrastructure of Math for America.
Underlying all these values is the belief that we must make teaching more attractive in order to attract talented people into the profession ... and to keep them there! Having the right people in front of classrooms not only helps our students now but also guarantees that we have more of those "right people" in the future.