Dr. Jennifer McNally, Associate Professor, Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Dr. Jennifer McNally, Associate Professor of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, is passionate about problem solving. The latest dilemma Dr. McNally is tackling is the nationwide shortage of math teachers, especially at the middle school and secondary education levels.

Recently, McNally conducted a survey of principals in Massachusetts and found that 82% of them plan to hire math teachers in the next three years. "A principal really wants to see a teacher who loves math and who can inspire that love of math in their students."

McNally, who is confident her students will get teaching jobs once they graduate from Curry, understands the daily grind of a public school math teacher because she was one. Before receiving her Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction in Mathematics Education at Montana State University, McNally was an elementary school teacher and taught sixth grade math.

"I've seen thousands of classrooms, and I know how diverse they can be. I can give my students a sense of what types of jobs are out there, whether it's a public school classroom, or a private school environment, or a role in the education industry."

McNally knows math is not everyone's best subject and says even aspiring math teachers struggle with math anxiety, which is why she aims to make her classroom welcoming.

"My students are hands-on, minds-on wrapping their heads around the concepts in a different way. We do not teach a process, model it on the whiteboard, and then have students repeat it. There are no more 1-37 odd homework assignments. We don't believe in having students mindlessly practice what we're teaching, instead we want deep conceptual development in our students, and the only way to get there is to get students to explore those ideas and make those fundamental concepts really come to life."

Starting in Fall 2018, Curry students will have the opportunity to major in Math Education, which puts them on a pathway to receiving middle school or secondary school teaching licenses.

"What's unique about the new Math Education curriculum at Curry is it's fully integrated between the Education and Math programs. We have worked collaboratively and brought both voices to the table so students can look at the math they're learning and how it's applicable to the secondary classroom."

At Curry, Math Education majors have the opportunity to gain four semesters of varied field experiences in middle school or secondary school classrooms in suburban and urban settings to grasp the differences and similarities between them.

Dr. McNally has a wealth of knowledge to share with her students based on her own career path which included curriculum development in public schools and in higher education, and her work at Scholastic, Inc., leading an initiative to develop and train teachers in 30 schools throughout New England.

McNally's research is focused on the best ways to improve novice teachers' instruction by framing classroom observations that are formative and developmental so the student teacher and the cooperating or mentor teacher all learn from the experience. She is hoping to work with Curry's placement sites to do research on both student teachers and teachers to discover what is driving the learning in today's classrooms.

"Math changes lives, and we want all students' lives to be changed - not just our students, but the ones that our students will be teaching in the future."


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