Plenary Speaker Profile (2005)
Sybilla Beckmann
Associate Professor of Mathematics
University of Georgia
Mathematics content courses for prospective elementary and middle school teachers

What mathematics should elementary and middle school teachers know to be prepared to teach? There is broad consensus that teachers should have a deep understanding of the mathematics they will teach and that courses for teachers should help develop this understanding. But different kinds of courses, with different philosophies and approaches, can focus on the mathematics teachers will teach. I will present principles that can guide the development of courses for teachers and I will discuss how these principles are supported both by research and by the state of standard materials that teachers use. We will then discuss types and examples of problems that are useful for teachers to study but are not in standard mathematics courses. I will also show how I have adapted problems for teachers to problems for the average class of 6th graders I am teaching every day at a public school this year.

Sybilla Beckmann is the author of Mathematics for Elementary Teachers, published by Addison-Wesley. Beckmann has a traditional research mathematician's background: she has a PhD in mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania and was a Gibbs Instructor at Yale University before she became a professor at the University of Georgia. But when her children started to go to school, she became very interested in teacher education. She developed three mathematics content courses for prospective elementary school teachers at the University of Georgia and wrote her book for use in such courses.

Prof. Beckmann has presented a number of papers on teacher education at national and international meetings, at universities and colleges, and at workshops on preparing mathematicians to educate teachers. She has been a project staff member on a number of grants designed to improve teacher education and the mathematical knowledge of teachers. She has also directed a number of workshops for the professional development of teachers, including year-long and multi-year projects at local elementary schools. One of these projects blended art and math and was a collaboration with the school's art teacher. One of her current projects is teaching one average 6th grade mathematics class every day at a local public school.