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Pieces of Eight


Grant to Fund High School Tech-Math Lessons in State

By Erica Plouffe Lazure

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $1.2 million grant that will enable East Carolina University to help public school teachers plan lessons that focus on business-related science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) problems.

The aim of the three-year project, said Ernest Marshburn, director of strategic initiatives in the Division of Research and Graduate Studies at ECU, is to help students see how mathematics and science are used in real-life business situations. This is one of two grants ECU has received this year from the National Science Foundation to help develop public school curricula. The hope, Marshburn said, is to help rural school systems prepare high school students to meet the region’s growing demands for technologically skilled workers.

“While mathematics and information technology skills are essential, typical classroom instruction does not provide students with enough real-world business experiences that will give them a competitive advantage in the STEM career workforce,” Marshburn said.

This month, faculty members from the colleges of business and education at ECU will begin to meet with high school teachers from Hertford, Northampton, Halifax and Warren counties at Halifax Community College. In fall 2007, the TechMath project will expand to Edgecombe, Beaufort, Martin, Nash and Washington counties.

More than 30 businesses from these counties have signed on to help the educators develop realistic business-related situations and problems.

“There are mathematical formulas that drive business decisions,” Marshburn said. “If students can understand how to apply math in the real world, and connect it with businesses in their communities, they’ll better appreciate the mathematical concepts.”

As many as 70 high school teachers and students from northeastern North Carolina will participate in the project during the three-year grant. Lesson plans developed from this project will also benefit 2,800 additional students from across the region and around the state.

Other project leaders include Ron Preston and Rose Sinicrope, professors in ECU’s Mathematics and Science Education Department, College of Business professor Beth Eckstein, and John Parker of the New Schools Project.

Teachers interested in participating should contact Eckstein at 328-9353 or at

Participants commit to at least 120 contact hours during the TechMath program, 80 hours of which will take place during a summer workshop at a community college close to their home counties.

This page originally appeared in the Nov. 3, 2006 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at