New Advanced Degree at HSU Poised for Dual Purposes




A new degree at Hardin-Simmons University, destined for a summer 2014 debut, will qualify high school educators to teach more dual credit courses and Advanced Placement classes. Plus, the new degree will help meet the nation’s objective to educate more students in science, technology, engineering, and math.

The new Master of Science in Mathematics degree was recently approved by the Hardin-Simmons University Board of Trustees during its semi-annual meeting. The new degree addresses two growing trends in the United States: the need for qualified high school math teachers to meet the demand of student enrollment in dual credit and AP classes, and the need for more teachers in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math.

In November 2009, the Educate to Innovate initiative was launched by the U.S. government to move American students from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math achievement. The campaign includes the efforts of many schools and universities responding to the STEM initiatives with curriculum choices aimed at advancing America’s competitiveness in the development of new technology.

“Nationwide, we need more math and science teachers to fulfill America’s initiatives in critical areas of education, research, and technology,” said Dr. Thomas Brisco, HSU provost and chief academic officer. “This new program is designed to help fill that need.”

The new degree also helps to meet the demand for more teachers with the qualifications to instruct duel credit and AP math classes in high schools. “Since math teachers who are currently employed represent a primary audience for the new degree, we designed the degree with much flexibility in order to meet their work schedule requirements,” said Brisco.

Dr. Nanci Kucinski, HSU dean of graduate studies, said, “With this graduate degree, secondary teachers will have the opportunity to deepen their knowledge and understanding of mathematics and it will help teachers to develop instructional techniques to transfer mathematical knowledge to their students.”  

Dr. Ken Davis, associate professor of mathematics, was part of the HSU team that developed much of the groundwork over the last five years to bring the degree to fruition. Davis said the degree was intentionally groomed for the scheduling needs of public school teachers. “There are excellent masters programs in the state of Texas but their schedule creates barriers for high school teachers.”

Kucinski said, “The bulk of the course work will be in the summer with some work completed online during the long spring and fall semesters.” The 33-academic-hour Master of Science degree will require only a minimal of face-to-face classroom time in the evening. Kucinski points out that the degree will also qualify math teachers with the 18 academic hours required to teach at the community college level.

Davis indicates that students in public schools will also benefit as teachers with additional training can help their students better transition into college. “Great teachers make the difference,” said Davis. “Students who are strongly prepared in science and mathematics are able to truly succeed at the university level.”

Examining the larger picture mathematically, Davis predicts the degree’s impact will be immense. “The program could graduate approximately 20 educators per year, each teaching approximately 60 students in dual credit calculus or statistics. That is 1200 more high school students each year that can succeed in the sciences and mathematics at college.”

The curriculum includes courses in topology; advanced topics in calculus I and II; linear algebra; real analysis I and II; mathematical statistics I and II; and mathematical modeling I and II.

Brisco said the degree is pending approval by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges (SACs). With that expected approval, HSU will offer the Master of Science in Mathematics beginning the summer of 2014.

Davis said he expects the degree to continue to develop and grow as public school teachers contribute to the program. “They will have many excellent ideas for improving the M.S. degree. The key is a strong M.S. in mathematics with passionate professors helping professional teachers to advance their students.”


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