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MAA & CU Boulder Receive $2.75 Million to Improve Online Training for Math Instructors

(July 20,2021) Washington, D.C. - The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), in collaboration with the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder), a $2.75 million grant. This grant will improve online, teaching-focused professional development for undergraduate mathematics educators. The new program, Online Professional Enhancement and Capacity Building for Instructional Practices in Undergraduate Mathematics (OPEN Math), creates a more inclusive and accessible environment for instructors interested in professional development.

According to the American Council on Education (ACE), “coordinated, systemic professional development efforts at the postsecondary level are related to improved student outcomes, including higher retention and graduation rates.” ACE recommends, “higher education institutions invest in professional development as a fundamental part of their overall strategic plan for improving graduation rates and ensuring student success.” OPEN Math provides a structure for supporting mathematics educators in providing effective and inclusive learning environments that help students achieve their goals.

The OPEN Math program aims to support 1,000 educators through 40 workshops over the next four years. This program will improve online professional learning by training educators to include practices that advance student learning. A research team from CU Boulder will evaluate, research, and disseminate findings from the program to help instructors overcome typical barriers created by the need for institutional change. The program will empower individuals to make research-based changes to their teaching practices, impacting thousands of students across the country. Also, this program will help institutions support faculty in implementing instructional changes in their classrooms.

The principal investigator of the MAA award, Doug Ensley, Professor of Mathematics at Shippensburg University, brought the grant team together in the fall of 2020 with the goal of creating a proposal that naturally extends the new MAA Virtual Programming. “From PREP workshops to MAA MathFest to Project NExT, the MAA has a tremendous track record of providing professional development for the mathematics community,“ explains Ensley.

“The MAA and CU Boulder teams bring complementary skills to this multi-layered project. We are focused on providing accessible professional development for instructors, through training workshop providers and studying the effectiveness of online learning.”

Deirdre Longacher Smeltzer, MAA Senior Director for Programs

“We are excited to partner with the MAA on this project, to expand the number and diversity of math faculty who participate in powerful professional development and connect with others interested in similar teaching issues,” states Sandra Laursen, director of the CU Boulder team leading the research effort. “The pandemic forced us to move professional development online in a big hurry, and some of the advantages surprised us. Now we can be more methodical and learn more about what makes online professional development work.”

About MAA

The Mathematical Association of America is the world’s largest community of mathematicians, students, and enthusiasts. We accelerate the understanding of our world through mathematics because mathematics drives society and shapes our lives. Learn more at