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Math for America, a Non-Profit Foundation, Initiates Innovative Programs to Recruit, Educate and Support Highly Trained Math Teachers Novel Program Designed by Prominent Mathematicians

NEW YORK, NY, November 17, 2004 – A privately sponsored and financed $25 million program to improve the teaching of mathematics in New York City public high schools by attracting and training more than 180 motivated, highly qualified math teachers over the next four years was announced today by Dr. James Simons, Founder and Chairman of Math for America (MfA), a non-profit New York City-based foundation sponsoring the program. Dr. Simons was joined at the announcement at the New York City Lab School for Collaborative Studies by Caroline Kennedy, the Vice Chair of the Fund for Public Schools, and Randi Weingarten, President of the United Federation of Teachers. 

Math for America’s Newton Fellowship Program is designed to recruit and train talented college math majors and others already in the workforce to teach math in New York City public high schools. Fellows receive a full scholarship to a Masters degree program in education at one of two of the City’s leading u niversities and stipends totaling $90,000. In return, Fellows commit to at least four years of teaching high school math in the New York City schools. In addition, MfA has launched the Newton Master Teacher Fellowship Program, which is designed to keep strong existing math teachers in public high school classrooms, by awarding annual stipends and providing opportunities for professional development to teachers who commit to stay in New York City schools for at least four years.  

“Dr. Simons and Math for America are demonstrating how much can be accomplished through public-private partnerships that support our schools,” said Caroline Kennedy. “Math for America’s new programs will help our schools in their efforts to recruit, train and support quality math teachers, and increase student achievement in math.”

“U.S. students are woefully behind the rest of the world in terms of their general knowledge of mathematics, which places them and our country at a serious disadvantage,” said Dr. Simons. “Our organization is determined to help correct this situation, and we are hopeful that, in time, and sooner rather than later, the New York City model will lead to a federal program that will be implemented across the country.” 

Ms. Weingarten endorsed the MfA’s approach to the problem. “With MfA’s program, we will be able to put more qualified teachers in the classrooms. There’s no question we need individuals with a passion for teaching, but we also need, and this is especially true where mathematics is concerned, people who truly know the subject and can get our students excited about learning it,” she commented.

In their first year, Newton Fellows attend a full time Master’s level program in math education. They complete coursework and student teaching and receive a stipend of $28,000, in addition to a full scholarship. In years two through five of the program, Fellows, while employed by the Department of Education, participate in on-going mentoring and professional development activities. Over their four years of teaching, Fellows receive stipends from MfA totaling $62,000, plus their New York City teaching salaries.

This year, 13 individuals, representing the first cohort of the program, received Newton Fellowships. They are currently enrolled in teacher preparation programs at Queens College of the City University of New York, Department of Secondary Education and Youth Services, and at the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University. The Fellows are expected to start teaching in the public schools in September 2005. MfA’s goal is to award approximately 40 Fellowships in each of the next four years.

MfA also sponsors the Newton Master Teacher Fellowship Program, designed to keep strong math teachers in the classroom. The Master Teacher Program will begin in September 2005, and provide a $50,000 stipend over four years to selected current New York City public high school math teachers. MfA plans to award more than 40 Master Teacher Fellowships between 2005 and 2008.

Department of Education Chancellor Joel I. Klein, in a letter to Dr. Simons, noted that the Newton Fellowship Programs “will help meet the demand for quality educators in the New York City public schools through the placement of over two hundred new and master math teachers by 2008.”

“This is a modest beginning, but it is a start,” said Dr. Irwin Kra, Executive Director of MfA. “There is no question that there is an urgent need to improve the level of math education in our schools, and our organization’s sole focus is to deal with this problem. It has been particularly gratifying to see the quality and capabilities of the individuals who have expressed interest in the Newton Fellowships. They primarily come from campuses up and down the eastern seaboard, where we have thus far focused our recruiting effort, but the initial response, which is good for the children in our public schools, has been very encouraging.”

Dr. Simons, President of Renaissance Technologies Corporation, a private investment firm, along with a number of other prominent mathematicians, business people and educators, founded MfA in January 2004. He received a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1961; he was the first person to complete his studies with a fellowship provided by the National Defense Education Act of 1958, a federally funded program established in the wake of Sputnik and the threat of Soviet hegemony in the space/arms race. Dr. Simons taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University. In 1968 he was appointed Chair of the Stony Brook University Mathematics Department with a mandate to build a world class institution. He served as Chairman for eight years. In 1975, he received the prestigious American Mathematical Society Veblen Prize in Geometry. Dr. Simons is closely involved with The Simons Foundation, a charitable organization primarily devoted to scientific research and managed by his wife Marilyn. In addition, he serves on numerous Boards including the Institute for Advanced Study, MIT and Rockefeller University. 

Dr. Kra, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at Stony Brook University and a mathematician of international note, likewise is a former Chairman of the Stony Brook Mathematics Department as well as former Dean of Stony Brook’s Physical Sciences and Mathematics Division. Dr. Kra was educated in New York City, graduating from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, attending the Polytechnic University (formerly Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute) and receiving his Ph.D. from Columbia University. Information on MfA can be obtained by visiting the organization’s website at