THE SATURDAY MORNING MATH PROGRAM
UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE
30 YEAR ANNIVERSARY 1983 – 2013
AN INFORMAL HISTORY
The Saturday Morning Math Program (SMMP) was created in 1983 in the Mathematical Sciences Teaching and Learning Center. Dr. Ronald Wenger, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at that time created that Center in 1980. The objectives of that Center provide the context for the SMMP.
The Center was developed with two sets of objectives: to support the lower division instructional program in the Department of Mathematical Sciences and to collaborate with mathematics teachers in the state of Delaware to help improve mathematics instruction. The former of these two objectives involved the recruitment of six very experienced, masters-level mathematics teachers to teach all of the mathematics courses below the calculus level at the University. Mr. Jon Manon – – now Dr. Jon Manon – – was one of the first hired.
The second set of objectives, collaboration with Delaware mathematics teachers, was a very important focus for the Center. Significant grants from the National Science Foundation and other funders were obtained for this purpose. Dr. Wenger hired Dr. Kathleen Hollowell to help provide this leadership.
It was in this context the SMMP was formed. At that time the Department of Music at the University of Delaware had a successful Saturday Morning Music Program. Dr. Wenger thought that this might serve as a nice model for a similar initiative in mathematics. Ms. Mary Jennings, an experienced secondary mathematics teacher who had also taught elementary and middle school mathematics, was the first planner and coordinator of the SMMP.
The idea was to recruit very experienced and talented mathematics teachers to design and provide rich mathematical experiences for children at various elementary and middle school ages. The emphases were on problem-solving, games that implicitly facilitate mathematical thinking and similar activities that were likely to enhance children’s enjoyment and knowledge of mathematics. The focus was not to be on helping children remediate topics in their school curriculum with which they were having difficulty.
Marti McCormick, a very experienced and talented Delaware mathematics teacher, collaborated with Ms. Jennings the first year and accepted full responsibility for the program its second year. Marti had significant influence on the content and goals of the program. In many ways, Marti was the founder of the SMMP. She remained in this role for 26 years. During that time, her daughter, Kathleen, was her informal assistant. Marti also identified and trained those teachers who followed her. During those years, Kathleen became certified to teach mathematics and did so. When Marti left the program, Kathleen, now Kathleen Giordano, became SMMP’s director. Like Marti, Kathleen is assisted by superb teachers, currently Angie Alston, Johnna Koshland, Karen Fredrick, and other teachers in the past who have all been equally dedicated and talented.
Some of Marti’s memories capture the spirit and success of the program.
“I loved that the philosophy of the program was “Math is fun”. I also loved that so many people were surprised that each class had children at different levels and they were all learning and having fun doing it. One of my favorite memories was when a parent told me that her child, who had been part of the program while in kindergarten, when awakened to attend the program when he was in first grade told his mother he hated math so why was he having to go on Saturday? She said he was signed up for it so he was going! When he arrived he realized where he was and told his mother this was not math this was fun stuff.”
Since SMMP was designed to be a service to the broader Delaware community, it was necessary that it be fully funded by tuition from those who participated in it. It was this feature together with the extraordinary talent of its teacher-designers that explains its viability – – still going strong after 30 years.
During a sabbatical at The Penn State University in 1995-96, Dr. Wenger decided to change his role when he returned to the University. After notifying the Dean and the chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences of this, the administration separated the two components of the Mathematical Sciences Teaching and Learning Center, placing the lower division instructional program in the Department of Mathematical Sciences and the teacher development component in the College of Education. The latter was renamed the Mathematics Science Education Resource Center (MSERC). Dr. Hollowell was appointed director of that Center. Later, Dr. Jon Manon became its director and currently continues to serve in that role. The SMMP remained with MSERC, where it is currently located.
The objectives of the SMMP have not changed. However, each set of teacher-leaders responsible for the program has, in effect, selected and trained the next set. We are delighted that the program is still in great demand. We are especially delighted that some of the children currently enrolled may actually be children of parents who had experienced SMMP themselves. In fact, two of Dr. Wenger’s grandchildren were enrolled in 2013 – – which delighted him greatly!