TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama will begin providing additional training opportunities for secondary math education majors for preparation to teach computer science.
The project is funded by a two-year, $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, as part of the new “CS for All” program.
Secondary math education majors at UA currently take a computer science course called CS 104 – computer science principles – as part of their mathematics major.
The NSF grant will fund the creation of a second course in the spring that focuses on computer science education topics, including equity in computer science education and the newly developed Alabama K-12 computer science standards.
Additionally, teacher candidates will learn strategies and activities for integrating both mathematics and computer science into classrooms.
“The grant is a pre-service preparation pathway that will enable secondary math education students to be prepared to offer a computer science course at their future high school,” said Dr. Jeff Gray, UA computer science professor and principal investigator of the grant.
The grant provides up to 30 $1,500 stipends over the next two years to students who take the new course. The grant will also help fund travel for half of the students to the College Board AP CSP Summer Institute.
Students will also participate in a teaching practicum and serve as student teachers at local high schools that are already offering the computer science principles course.
Gray, along with Dr. Jeremy Zelkowski, UA secondary math education program coordinator, and Dr. Rebecca Odom-Bartel, UA instructor of computer science, will recruit students for the new course from the CS 104 course that Odom-Bartel teaches each semester.
Evaluation of the project will be conducted by Dr. Karl Hamner, who is the director of the office of evaluation at UA.
“Those who get a chance to teach computer science in their first year would receive an additional stipend and attend a national conference to present about their teaching and research experiences related to the project,” Zelkowski said.
Teachers currently do not need certification to teach computer science in Alabama. Career technology teachers generally teach computer science courses, but many do not focus on mathematics, Zelkowski said.
“But if you had one who is teaching an advanced welding class, they’re probably doing a lot with geometry in how they plan and cut the steel,” Zelkowski said. “Those teachers would probably integrate geometry and mathematics into the CS course because they’re doing it in their other teaching. I would think our graduates would be comparable to someone like that because they’d have the math background to get mathematics applications into the CS they’re doing.”
In the past academic year, more than 1,800 Alabama high school students from nearly 80 schools were enrolled in an AP computer science principles course that Gray, the NSF, the College Board and A+ College Ready began developing in 2011. Only three Alabama high schools offered computer science in 2007.