College Mathematics Instructor Preparation Design Tool: Helping Departments Grow their Teaching

Sean Yee
Associate Professor of Mathematics Education
University of South Carolina

Need. A significant and continuing challenge to undergraduate student success is the uneven quality of instruction in college mathematics courses. The last decade has seen several national efforts aimed at addressing this well-known problem, including online repositories of activities for use in the preparation of graduate students for teaching, online professional learning opportunities for faculty, and the release of student-centered policy documents like the Mathematical Association of America’s (MAA) Instructional Practices Guide (IPG). Higher education leaders are now looking to mathematics departments to improve the preparation of college mathematics instructors (CMIs).

Guiding Question. There is no one-size-fits-all solution because there are many types of CMIs (graduate students, teaching faculty, research faculty) and types of institutions (two-year college, four-year master’s, four-year doctoral). Multiple NSF-funded projects have generated materials and activities for CMI preparation. For the particular population of CMIs represented by graduate students, many of today’s resources are included in the College Mathematics Instructor Development Source (CoMInDS) library hosted by the Mathematical Association of America. The question for departments is: Which resources, orchestrated in what way, are a good fit for local graduate student development needs? This project addresses this question by developing, distilling, and disseminating guidance through a CMI Prep Design Tool. The web-based tool is responsive to institutional needs by asking for details about a particular context (e.g., department), local goals for a program, and providing profiles of program designs that align with those goals and promote recommended practices (e.g., from the IPG).

Outcomes. To create the CMI Prep Design Tool the project has leveraged the experience of a team of Expert Providers (people from 2- and 4-year institutions who are expert at the preparation for teaching of novice CMIs, including graduate students). The Expert Providers participated in the collection, analysis, and categorization of existing CMI prep programs to develop a national survey. The project is currently in the midst of collecting information from 100 departments that have expressed interest in starting or further developing their novice CMI prep programs. Results of the survey will inform how the CMI Prep Design Tool works (from what information is requested of users to how potential program designs are presented to users).

Broader Impacts. The MAA’s novel IPG provides explanations of best practices for collegiate teaching, yet only describes the principles for design, classroom, and instructional practices. No complementary guide exists for how to put those principles into action. Simultaneously, the NSF-funded CoMInDS project’s research has indicated departments have resources and intent for improving novice CMI prep but not the knowledge or structures for the changes needed. Essentially, the IPG and CoMInDS repository have valuable ingredients, but departments need a recipe to use these ingredients effectively. The CMI Prep Design Tool provides that recipe. With follow-up surveys, publications, and future workshops this project will result in enduring programs for developing novice CMIs and an instructional workforce that will have the CMI Prep Design Tool to continually improve the teaching of undergraduate mathematics courses.


Shandy Hauk, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA; Tuto LopezGonzalez , San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA; Huijuan Wang, University of South Carolina