Dedication

The Vermont Mathematics Initiative is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Marc E. Hull, the Vermont Commissioner of Education at the founding of the VMI and my close personal friend and mentor.

The VMI owes its existence to his dedication to the children of Vermont.

Kenneth I. Gross
VMI Founder

Introduction

Begun in 1999, the Vermont Mathematics Initiative (VMI) represents a collaboration of the University of Vermont, other Vermont institutions of higher education, the Vermont State Agency of Education, and Vermont school districts. The VMI is open to all teachers from pre-kindergarten through high school. Teachers who enroll in VMI can earn either a Master of Science in Teaching (MST) degree from the UVM Department of Mathematics and Statistics or, with additional coursework and a final e-portfolio, a Master of Education (M.Ed) degree in Curriculum & Instruction from the UVM Department of Education.

The mission of the VMI is to support highly effective mathematics instruction across the entire state of Vermont so that all children can learn the rigorous mathematics needed for success in higher education and the workplace. The VMI is founded on the principle that strong mathematics content knowledge of teachers is prerequisite to enhanced pedagogy and higher student achievement.

The Marc Hull Doctrine: Whatever you do in education—teaching, professional development, administration, assessment—always keep the child in the foreground, especially the child who has no other champion.

At the heart of the VMI is the concept of building a cadre of mathematics teacher leaders across the state who are deeply knowledgeable in mathematics content and can apply their knowledge to improve mathematics instruction. In turn, these teacher leaders serve as mathematics resources to other teachers in their school and/or district in the teaching and learning of mathematics. To date VMI has trained 505 teacher leaders representing 97% of Vermont school districts. An additional 800 teachers have taken sustained in-depth VMI courses. In all, Vermont teachers who have taken VMI courses teach about 15,000 Vermont students annually.

Formal evaluation studies, begun in 2004, have consistently indicated that the VMI has had a profound impact on the teachers themselves, their classroom practice, and most importantly students in schools having VMI teachers. The VMI is also having an impact beyond Vermont, where the program is proving effective in urban, suburban, and rural settings.

The VMI Professional Development Model

The VMI is a two stage "train the trainer" model.

The first stage is completion of the VMI Professional Development Program—a three-year, 12 course, 36 credit program—which trains teachers to be mathematics teacher leaders, thereby building capacity in schools and districts for improving mathematics instruction.

The second stage is the District or Regional Implementation component in which the VMI trained mathematics teacher leaders in a district are utilized to reach all K-8 teachers in the district.

Stage 1: VMI Professional Development Program

Teachers who enroll in VMI can earn a Master of Science in Teaching (MST) degree from the UVM Department of Mathematics and Statistics or, with additional coursework and a final e-portfolio, a Master of Education (M.Ed) degree in Curriculum & Instruction from the UVM Department of Education.

  • VMI admits teachers from all grades, pre-K through 12. VMI fosters interaction and collaboration among K-12 teachers while differentiating instruction according to the mathematics background of the teachers and appropriate grade span experience (elementary, middle, high school).
  • No mathematics prerequisites. Participants enter with varied mathematics backgrounds. Teacher retention, therefore, is a high priority, and the VMI includes multiple means of supporting teachers, both in their own learning of mathematics and in the transfer of mathematics knowledge to the K-12 classroom. As evidence of the success of the support structures, over 95% of all teachers who have entered VMI have completed the program.
  • The VMI Professional Development goals. The Professional Development Program has four overarching goals.
  1. Build a strong and deep knowledge and understanding of mathematics content.
  2. Enhance classroom practice resulting in higher student performance.
  3. Conduct action research that informs classroom practice.
  4. Provide leadership that supports school-wide improvement of mathematics teaching and learning.

Goal (1), mathematics content knowledge, is foundational for all the other goals.

  • Summer institutes and academic year courses. The VMI curriculum consists of 12 courses, four in each of the three years of the program. Two of the four courses are taken in the summer and comprise a "Summer Institute" that runs for two weeks (10 days) for 8 hours per day. The other two courses are taken in the academic year, one in the fall semester and one in the spring semester. Each meets on three Friday-Saturday "VMI weekends," again for 8 hours each day. Eight of the twelve courses are mathematics content courses. Three courses develop statistics in relation to the teacher as researcher in her/his classroom and school. The twelfth and final course in the curriculum, The Capstone Experience is designed to help teachers synthesize their work in the four elements that comprise the VMI goals—mathematics content knowledge, classroom practice, action research, and leadership.
  • Field component and school implementation. Deep understanding of mathematics is the foundation of VMI. However, the ultimate goal of VMI is to raise student achievement in the classrooms of VMI teachers. To that end, the VMI field component is designed to help teachers apply their mathematics knowledge to improve mathematics classroom practice. In implementing the field component, VMI employs master K-12 educators, all of whom are graduates of the VMI, to serve as mentors to currently enrolled teachers. Field work, which takes place concurrently with each course, consists of mentoring of VMI participants in their own classrooms and in small online learning communities; regionally held workshops, occasional Saturday sessions held at UVM or via interactive television; and a three-day "Principal/Teacher Leadership Institute" held off-campus that initiates the leadership component of the VMI.
  • Emphasis on problem solving and inquiry based learning. All VMI courses serve as models for effective classroom pedagogy. In particular, VMI instruction engages the learner and maintains the learner's attention, concentration, and enthusiasm for the entire class day. Problems and their solutions form the core of mathematics. One may even say that mathematics is problem solving—that is, we do mathematics in order to solve problems. Therefore, problem solving occupies a large part of the VMI class day, and the VMI course materials include an extensive collection of problems that lead the learner to the mathematics of the lesson.

Questions about the VMI? Email us at vmi@uvm.edu or call 1-802-656-4281.

Stage 2: District or Regional Implementation

This so-called "Phase II" component of VMI is designed to build upon the mathematics leadership capacity represented by several hundred VMI graduates with Masters degrees in over 90% of the school districts across Vermont.

Begun in 2006-2007, the District and Regional Component of VMI is designed to reach all teachers in a district through two foundational courses given regionally with follow-up provided by the district's VMI trained teacher leaders. Each course meets for 40 contract hours and awards three graduate credits. The content for these courses, written by VMI Founder Ken Gross and taught in the context of building strong problem solving skills, is drawn primarily from the first two courses in the VMI and focuses on:

  • Developing a deep understanding of arithmetic
  • Emphasizing the intimate relationship among arithmetic, algebra, and geometry
  • Understanding & using the concept of a function
  • Linear functions and proportional reasoning

Both in its underlying philosophy and course implementation, Phase II includes many of the same features that have contributed to the success of the VMI courses. These features include rigorous mathematics at the core of the experience, an instructional team comprised of a mathematician and one or more educators who are VMI graduates; support for the transfer of content to the classroom, and many forms of support for teachers and the district.

Transfer into a master's degree program. Teachers who complete either one or both of the two regional VMI courses and wish to continue their mathematics training and obtain a master's degree can apply to the Graduate College to transfer into either the MST or MEd 3 or 6 hours of credit, respectively, toward the requirements for the Master's Degree.

Questions about the VMI? Email us at vmi@uvm.edu or call 1-802-656-4281.

Additional VMI service to Vermont

VMI is the only entity within Vermont that provides extensive, comprehensive content-based professional development for teachers in the area of mathematics. VMI personnel deliver regional trainings and workshops across the state and work collaboratively with the Vermont Agency of Education around issues related to mathematics education.

As well, VMI personnel assist individual schools and districts by providing on-site services such as in-service sessions, in-classroom mentoring, after school workshops, and advising administrators on mathematics education issues.

Questions about the VMI? Email us at vmi@uvm.edu or call 1-802-656-4281.