Montana State University

MSU mathematics professor wins Fulbright to United Kingdom.

May 22, 2014 -- By Tanya Reinhardt, MSU News Service

Photo by Amy Shertzer   High-Res Available

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BOZEMAN—A Montana State University mathematics professor whose research focuses on improving the preparation and professional development for K-12 math teachers has won a Fulbright Scholar grant to the United Kingdom.

Elizabeth Burroughs, an associate professor of mathematics education in the Department of Mathematical Sciences will spend six months starting next fall working with faculty and students at the University of York, which is on the west side of England and approximately 200 miles north of London.

Burroughs is one of approximately 1,100 U.S. faculty and professionals who will travel abroad through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program in 2014-2015.

The Fulbright Scholars program is an international exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase international understanding between people.

While at York Burroughs will teach an undergraduate course for future elementary teachers, “Inquiry in Mathematics.”

“Inquiry mathematics is an approach to thinking that is more about discovering math concepts instead of just using formulas or memorization,” said Burroughs. “This is important because it empowers students with critical thinking skills and reflects the true nature of math as mathematicians practice it.”

“The university wants assistance strengthening their math education program. I am going to focus in part on classroom coaching in math, which is a way for teachers to improve their classroom practice,” said Burroughs who will work directly with Judith Bennett, a science education professor.  

Burroughs, a native of Biddeford, Maine, was a secondary math teacher in Atlanta prior to earning her doctorate from the University of New Mexico. Burroughs has led professional development programs for K-12 teachers in California and Montana and served as a board member on the Montana Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 

“I am also doing a lot of research work inspired by researchers such as Jo Boaler a professor from Stanford University, who did breakthrough work in mathematics teaching and learning,” Burroughs said. “I am working with educators to alter the perception that people are either born with math skills or they are not. We believe people can ‘grow’ their minds and get better at math just as they get better at music if they practice,” Burroughs said.

Looking at gender equality issues in education and the psychology of learning is also an area Burroughs plans to continue working on while in York. 

“I like to help students explore the psychology of math education and how it fits with teacher performance,” Burroughs said. “Judith Bennett, my co-worker at the University of York, is conducting similar research in the science field, so I will be able to contribute expertise to their program and learn at the same time.” 

Burroughs, who has been teaching at MSU since 2007, is looking forward to learning more about the United Kingdom’s national curriculum policy and how it may compare to the new common core curriculum policies in the United States.

As the principal investigator of the Examining Mathematics Coaching project, a five-year, $3.5 million project funded by the National Science Foundation to research mathematics coaching, Burroughs is vested in doing everything she can to help prepare K-12 teachers for success. As part of that Burroughs said she looks forward to learning more about the United Kingdom’s educational system, so she can better prepare MSU graduates for overseas teaching experiences.

Contact: Jody Sanford, (406) 994-7791, jody.sanford@montana.edu