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Northwest Vista College Receives Grant To Launch Community Math Program

Northwest Vista College has received federal funding to improve math outcomes for elementary students.

The community college plans to use the $3.7 million grant to give San Antonio parents and teachers the skills they need to better support kids.

Northwest Vista is partnering with UTSA to implement the grant, which has two parts.

First, the community college is increasing the amount of math it teaches students who plan on becoming elementary teachers.

“They’re the weakest of our math students. And I don’t know about you, taking our weakest students and sending them into our elementary school is perhaps not the best means to improve math education,” said Anna Harwin, a math professor at Northwest Vista.

Harwin said the college also plans to implement a “growth mindset” for learning math — a teaching method that encourages students to see failures as something that can be overcome and abilities as something that can be improved.

“We are going to eradicate the ‘I hate math, so I’m going to be an elementary school teacher.’ And we’re also going to also eradicate the ‘I’m not smart enough to do math.’ Because that’s not what math is,” Harwin said.

Then, once the Northwest Vista students transfer to UTSA, they will start teaching math to parents at area community centers.

Harwin said that will both help future teachers understand how math skills are developed, and enable parents to help their kids with homework.

“When that long division problem kicks up a remainder for the first time, there’s somebody in the home who can help them,” Harwin said. “It is only through this means that there will be equality in educational access, because math remains a barrier, and the poorer the community the higher that barrier remains.”

Northwest Vista launched a parent educator program almost a decade ago at Time Dollar, a community center on San Antonio’s West Side.

One of the parents who participated, Ignacia Cruz, kept the program going by teaching other parents what she learned.

“I think this program is helpful for parents. If they learn how to teach their children, their children are going to be grateful. They’re going to graduate from high school, maybe even college or university,” Cruz said.

She had a high school student who was struggling with math when she first came to the community center. Now, her younger son is in fifth grade.

“They’re doing fractions (in school right now), and I’m able to help him,” Cruz said. “He’s good in math.”

Northwest Vista plans to continue that model of parents teaching other parents in addition to future teachers leading the training.

Harwin said the grant funding will support the program’s administrative costs and be used to pay the parents and future teachers leading math training at the community centers.

“By the end of the fifth year (of the grant), we believe we will have two, three, or four local colleges working on it, and every community center we can find,” Harwin said. “I believe this is a model that needs to go nationwide.”

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille