Open letter about Math Coordinator position at MMSD

Dear Members of the School Board, dear Superintendent Rainwater,
We are writing to strongly urge that the new Coordinator of Mathematics have the depth of knowledge of mathematics that we believe is essential for the position. While we are obviously concerned about the preparation of students entering the University, our concerns are much broader than that. The new Coordinator must have a high level of understanding of both mathematical content and pedagogy to independently navigate through the controversies that surround the established standards and published curricula. These “navigational skills” are essential if we are to achieve a program for the Madison school system that meets the needs and aspirations of all the students in the system.

The posted criteria do not give us confidence that the new coordinator will have the required depth of knowledge. Specifically, we recommend adding the following to the list of knowledge and experience that the new Coordinator should have:

  • Subject knowledge equivalent to a strong Bachelor’s degree in mathematics.
    The posted criteria call for a Master’s degree, but there is no requirement specific to the subject area. Knowledge at the level of a Bachelor’s degree seems to us to be a minimum requirement.

  • Teaching experience at the highest level in the high school curriculum.
    The posted criteria call for teaching experience in mathematics, but do not specify the level. Experience at the highest level seems essential if the individual is to have the necessary overview of the entire curriculum.

We recognize that the school system faces many challenges, but we do not believe that we are being self-serving or even controversial in asserting that a high quality mathematics curriculum must be one of the top priorities for the system. The new Coordinator must be fully equipped with the essential skills and knowledge if that priority is to be met.
Alejandro Adem
Sigurd Angenent
Richard Askey
Eric Bach
Lev Borisov
Richard Brualdi
Andrei Caldararu
David Camacho
Serguei Denissov
Mikhail Feldman
Simon Hellerstein
Shi Jin
Alexander Kiselev
James Kuelbs
Steffen Lempp
Shirin Malekpour
Eugenia Malitsky
Gloria Mari-Beffa
Gabi Meyer
Paul Milewski
Julie Mitchell
Yong-Geun Oh
Marshall Osborn
Seymour Parter
Paul Rabinowitz
Diane Rivard
Joel Robbin
Jean-Pierre Rosay
James Rossmanith
Hans Schneider
Andreas Seeger
Timo Seppalainen
Dietrich Uhlenbrock
Stephen Wainger
Tonghai Yang
Department of Mathematics
University of Wisconsin-Madison

4 thoughts on “Open letter about Math Coordinator position at MMSD”

  1. Let me be the first to thank the UW Math faculty for stepping up on this issue. This is exactly the kind of community feedback our school district needs to hear, life after MMSD.

  2. A strong background in math would clearly contribute to success in the position, both in terms of “navigational skills” and having street credibility with mathematicians.
    The challenge in math, as in some other content areas where the teacher supply is not as extensive, is finding someone who combines the administrative, teaching, and content knowledge elements and inspires confidence as a coordinator candidate. I’m sure there are individuals with administrative experience who hold the Director of Instruction license and have taught either pre-calc or calc, but it’s probably not an extensive list.
    This is a demanding position in terms of the skills required and the expectations. It’s also a critical position to fill well at this point in the district’s history. It will be interesting to see the conclusion of the search and how the new hire is received!

  3. Thank you to the UW-Madison Math Faculty for taking the time to share their thoughts about key skills they feel are needed in the next MMSD math coordinator.

  4. I think you have found a big problem that could occur with the math coordinator post. As it stands, a person could only have a trig background (as student) and only be certified to teach through 3rd grade…
    Mr. Rainwater’s backgound is in Phy Ed, not in a core subject classroom, so he may not realize the different degree’s of someone eligible to teach math K-12th. This could leave the door wide open to where math is going to go….

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