January 14, 2015//
Meet Priya V. Prasad. One of UTSA's new faculty members for 2014-2015, Prasad joins the College of Sciences as an assistant professor of mathematics.
I want my students to leave my class with a really deep understanding of elementary mathematics.”
– Priya Prasad
Her research focuses on the professional development of math teachers. This specific branch of mathematics puts an emphasis on curriculum and practical applications in the classroom. Prasad explains that a distinguishing factor in professional development, compared to other fields of mathematics, is that there is a different set of priorities when teaching: her students are approaching the material with an emphasis on how it can relate in the classroom and to the benefit of their own students.
In a professional development workshop held in December, Prasad collaborated with Crystal Kalinec-Craig, assistant professor of interdisciplinary teaching and learning. Their workshop, sponsored by the Teacher Quality grant, was attended by local middle school and high school teachers and focused on teaching algebra concepts to language diverse students. Prasad hopes this will spur future interdepartmental collaboration at UTSA for furthering the integration of STEM fields in public education.
Prasad recognizes that the sheer volume of the material her own students are introduced to in a single semester can be overwhelming; that's why she believes that establishing a foundation of good habits should hold precedence over any specific lesson.
"I want my students to leave my class with a really deep understanding of elementary mathematics," she explains. "I want them prepared to teach with conceptual depth and clarity."
Prasad's goal is to use methods of teaching that reveal the fun of real, relevant mathematics and combat the effects of math anxiety in so many students. She wants her students -- and their students -- to tap into the productivity that comes with not finding the right answer and to embrace that confusion.
Another issue that concerns Prasad is the gender gap in STEM fields. She explains that with the current 7:3 male-female ratio for most graduate programs in mathematics, it's easy for female students to fall into the role of representative of the female gender -- an uncomfortable burden to impose on anyone. However, she believes that the climate is becoming more receptive as more women enroll in STEM programs.
Prasad earned her bachelor's degree from Scripps College in Claremont, Calif. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. In between her undergraduate and graduate work, she taught for two years at a boarding school in Claremont.
"It was in those two years that I learned to teach and solidified my interest in math education," she said.
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