As an increased emphasis is being placed on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education across the country, WPI has stepped in to help practicing math teachers who are seeking to earn a master’s degree but struggle with the cost.
Last year the university reduced the cost of its MME program to $15,000, a move designed to help more teachers improve their math content knowledge and have a greater impact on their students. The 30-credit graduate program would otherwise cost $25,350.
“WPI’s MME program fills a critical need for math teachers in the U.S.,” says Kristin Tichenor, senior vice president. “The challenge is that teachers typically have limited funds available for professional development. WPI made the decision to radically reduce the cost of the program so that more teachers would have the chance to participate in this highly valued degree program.”
The U.S. Department of Education has identified widespread teacher shortages in mathematics. In many states teachers are required to obtain a master’s degree within a specified timeframe. However, low starting salaries, undergraduate debt obligations, and demanding schedules can make it a challenge for teachers to access master’s degree programs and gain the content background, skills, and confidence needed to be truly effective math teachers.
WPI’s MME program gives teachers a better understanding of critical mathematics principles to help strengthen their content knowledge and their teaching. Participants gain a solid foundation in areas such as geometry, algebra, modeling, discrete math, and statistics, as well as the use of modern applications. The curriculum follows WPI’s project-based approach to education, in which students apply what they learn to complete problem-focused projects.
To make the coursework even easier to access, WPI now offers it online, an option Tichenor calls “another critical enabler” for teachers who live beyond driving distance of campus.
John Goulet, teaching professor of mathematical sciences and coordinator of the MME program, praised the university for moving forward with his suggestions that something needed to be done to attract and retain teachers in the program.
Under the previous pricing, during the 2015-16 academic year, the program saw 186 student-credits. After the cost was dropped for the 2017-18 academic year, there were 287 student-credits.
“We saw an increase in enrollment. We saw people come back to the program who had left,” Goulet says. “We adjusted our cost to their financial realities."
And because more students have enrolled, Goulet said, “…We have come close to achieving our prior revenue while significantly increasing enrollment, and thus the service we provide to the K-12 community.”
Tichenor agrees. “The initial response has been tremendous," she says, "and we are thrilled to be able to expand the reach of the program to motivated math teachers across the country.”
- By Lauren Borsa-Curran