August 2, 2013
It took Paula Jakopovic more than a decade of public education before she experienced her "spark:" before math "came alive," before she learned to explore and collaborate and discuss the subject oft-maligned by students and teachers alike.
But once that math spark hit, Jakopovic had one thought. "I want to do that. I want to do that for kids." And even: "I want to do that for teachers someday."
As an elementary mathematics coach in Omaha Public Schools, Jakopovic now works to trigger similar sparks for her colleagues and students. Her job--and the lessons leading to it--stem from an innovative partnership between the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and some of the state's largest school districts.
Long funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the partnership encompasses three projects of NSF's Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program and the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program:NebraskaMATH, Math in the Middle andNebraskaNOYCE. Together, they have allowed hundreds of Nebraska teachers to earn advanced degrees in mathematics education, supported dozens more as they work in high-needs schools and prompted the growth of a cadre of master teachers. The partnership is built on the idea that better math teachers make better math students.