UAB’s Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI-UAB) is infusing excitement into area K-12 math, science and technology, teachers and students.

Karen Wood restocks school supplies to be sent to area K-12 schools as part of the AMSTI-UAB program.

AMSTI-UAB trained 250 teachers from 10 area elementary schools this past summer, says Karen Wood, director of AMSTI-UAB. One math specialist and one science specialist are visiting schools and helping teachers implement hands-on, inquiry-based math and science learning.

“We are encouraging area teachers to become more of the guide on the side instead of the sage on the stage,” Wood says. “We’re trying to change the teacher’s behavior in the classroom and make science more of a verb, with more active, hands-on participation by students. In this way, we provide children with experiences where they are encouraged to ask questions, design experiments and arrive at scientific conclusions based on their own data collections.”

AMSTI-UAB is operated through the UAB Center for Community Outreach and Development (CORD). It provides professional development for teachers, equipment and materials for students and assistants in the classroom. Schools are official AMSTI-UAB schools when 80 percent of teachers and administrators agree to participate and send their math and science teachers and administrators to the AMSTI-UAB Summer Science Institute for two summers.

Many UAB faculty members are assisting in Summer Institutes and classrooms and in designing pre-service programs that will better equip UAB graduates to teach in AMSTI schools around the state.

During the school year teachers are provided with modules containing chemicals, global positioning devices, plants and more to conduct hands-on activities that support the state’s science and math curriculum. Each module is customized for specific activities. Once students complete the activities, the module is returned to AMSTI-UAB, then restocked and sent to another school. UAB students also will help AMSTI-UAB refurbish the science and math modules that the K-12 students use.

AMSTI-UAB math and science specialists regularly visit the schools where they are mentors.

“We continue to support these teachers after they attend the institute,” Wood says. “The first two years are concentrated learning for the teachers, and we need to continue to assist them in their classroom.”
Brenda Rumley, principal at Abrams Elementary in Bessemer, says the program already has proven to be invaluable.

“We absolutely love the professional development and the entire perspective of hands-on activities and manipulatives to help build that concrete foundation and understanding our children need before we move them to the more abstract science and mathematical concepts,” she says. “It is a marvelous thing for our teachers. We’re having a lot of ah-ha moments here at Abrams, and when teachers run into difficulties with a certain concept they’ve quickly pulled out their manipulatives to build that foundation.”

The big picture
The early results of the AMSTI program are promising. Initial research indicates students attending the 363 AMSTI schools in Alabama are scoring higher in math and science than students who do not. The program is the $35 million-per-year cornerstone of Gov. Bob Riley’s efforts to improve the quality of math and science education. Riley’s goal is to have all K-12 teachers in the state trained by 2011, Rumley says.

Wood says that AMSTI is making an exciting change in K-12 classrooms in the area. “I’ve used AMSTI materials in my classroom and have been an AMSTI trainer for several years,” Wood says. “I’ve personally seen how this kind of instruction can benefit children’s level of math and science comprehension. The transfer to other content areas is also very apparent as children learn to be problem-solvers.”

AMSTI-UAB will add several specialists and provide on-site support to nearly all area public schools during the next four years. More specialists will be needed, Rumley says. Wood expects 800 area teachers to attend next summer’s institute.

Schools from the eight area school systems (Birmingham City, Jefferson County, Bessemer, Midfield, Fairfield, Leeds, Tarrant and Trussville) wanting to join AMSTI-UAB will send a team of science and math instructors and their principal to a Nov. 8 recruitment meeting at the Hill University Center. The meeting is from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Contact Wood for details at

For more on AMSTI-UAB, visit .