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Let's Get Physical

For one week in July, math teachers from five area school districts visited UT for "Let's Get Physical," a project aimed at empowering math teachers to demonstrate the effectiveness of math in the physical sciences.

"With all the STEM initiatives in education today, there is an urgency for math teachers to collaborate with teachers of other STEM disciplines," says Jeneva Clark, senior math lecturer and co-coordinator of the workshop. "In this workshop, we did not expect to turn math teachers into physics experts, but we wanted to give math teachers some tools for teaching math using physical contexts."

Part of the new core curriculum for teaching math in middle and high school requires teachers to understand mathematical modeling, such as using physics or biology to demonstrate the importance of math in our world. Through hands-on, project-oriented learning, teachers learned how to make math accessible to their students.

"Students ask, ‘When will we ever use this?" Math is used in physics to describe how our world works, and if students experience this, then this can make a real difference in a student's motivation to learn," Clark says.

In addition to learning several hands-on projects teachers can replicate in their classrooms, participants gained knowledge in physics and confidence in their teaching.

"These teachers gained the fluency and confidence to team up with science teachers at their schools," Clark says.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) funded the project through an Improving Teacher Quality grant. The main goal of the project was to give teachers in the STEM disciplines the tools they need to teach math through the lens of physics, both effectively and creatively.

"These teachers have chosen to devote time and energy to learning more about math as it relates to other STEM disciplines such as physics," Clark says. "These teachers are the ones who will stand out as leaders in our schools and as motivators of student learning."

For more information about this project visit

last updated: August 2017

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