UNESCO-Hamdan Prize rewards programme helping math teachers in Chile

“The goal of the programme is to provide teachers [with] opportunities to learn mathematics connected with their experiences,” says Salomé Martinez, Director of the Laboratory of Mathematical Education, Center for Mathematical Modeling, University of Chile. The programme is one of the three laureates of this year’s UNESCO-Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Prize for Outstanding Practice and Performance in Enhancing the Effectiveness of Teachers.  

The Center for Mathematical Modeling is awarded for its Suma y Sigue (“Adding it up” in English) Programme, a b-learning programme for primary school teachers that focuses on the core contents of the school curriculum, with strong emphasis to the specific knowledge for mathematics teaching.

Suma y Sigue was developed in collaboration by the Ministry of Education (Mineduc) and the Center for Mathematical Modeling of the University of Chile (CMM), to support recently enacted policies designed to improve the quality of public education. “It is the result of a four year collaboration between mathematicians, teachers and many other professionals,” says emphasizes Salomé Martinez.

Through this programme, teachers are expected to develop in-depth knowledge and skills to lead teaching and learning processes in primary school mathematics, in line with the approach promoted by the national curriculum. Precisely, the programme uses a variety of representation models to understand and communicate mathematical concepts and procedures, to analyze different strategies for problem solving and to recognize and anticipate children’s difficulties and reasoning patterns associated with different mathematical tasks.

Learning environments include interactive resources specifically designed to develop key mathematical competences such as representations, communication, modeling, reasoning and problem solving, as well as ICT skills. The activities also promote reflection on profound aspects of elementary mathematics and its teaching.

“I found that everything I knew could be looked at from another perspective, and at the same time, I could teach my students not only [from] my point of view, but also [from] three or four different perspectives, with the same content, and thus facilitate the learning process of children that have different learning methods,” explains Andrea Donoso, teacher at Corporación Municipal de Desarrollo Social of Pudahuel.

“Above all participation is active, because in my case, I practice it with the kids. […] I am going over contents […]then I put into practice what I’ve been learning in this course,” says Renzo Leon, teacher at Escuela Básica Estrella de Chile in Pudahuel.

Suma y Sigue courses have been taken by 940 elementary school teachers belonging to 240 urban and rural public schools, of 18 districts distributed in three regions. The retention rate has been over 91%, and teacher satisfaction surveys show that 92% of them are satisfied with the courses. “I wish all my colleagues, especially of my school, could participate in this course, because somehow, they will be strengthened in their knowledge and thus be able to provide a better education for our students,” says Andrea Donoso.

For Salomé Martinez, receiving the UNESCO-Hamdan Prize presents a unique opportunity to consolidate and expand this programme. “We will be able to reach more teachers, especially from remote locations.” She also adds that winning “renews the commitment to provide teachers and children with opportunities to learn mathematics and enjoy it!”

The UNESCO-Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Prize for Outstanding Practice and Performance in Enhancing the Effectiveness of Teachers is awarded every two years to projects that have made outstanding contributions to improving the quality of teaching and learning, especially in developing countries or within marginalized or disadvantaged communities. The Prize was established in 2009, with funding from His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum of Dubai, Each winner receives US$ 100,000.

This year, the prize is awarded to three laureates from Chile, Indonesia and the United Kingdom of Great-Britain and Northern Ireland.