About PfT

Purpose of PROMYS for Teachers

PROMYS for Teachers is designed to support current efforts in Massachusetts and nationwide to enhance problem-solving and open-ended exploration in secondary school mathematics classrooms. PROMYS engages middle and high school teachers in an intensive experience of mathematical exploration. Over the course of six weeks, PROMYS teachers develop, through problem-solving, many classical results in number theory. Simple numerical observations made in the early problem sets are enriched and extended in later sets so that participants are treated to a first-hand experience of unraveling deep and significant truths out of simple ideas. They also uncover for themselves the interconnectedness of mathematics, and they pass this cohesive view on to their students.  Teachers do not need any advanced mathematical background to be involved in PROMYS, but the content is challenging enough to sustain the interest of the most mathematically sophisticated participants.

This mathematical immersion is enriched by a supportive community of other teachers, high school students, graduate students, and research faculty. The program fosters new insights into the nature of mathematical investigation as participants practice the habits of mind that are at the core of creative mathematics.  Teachers who have had an experience of learning in the spirit of exploration are better prepared to bring this spirit of independent inquiry into their classrooms. Academic year workshops help teachers translate the summer experience into fundamental change in their own classrooms.

The Massachusetts Mathematics Curriculum Framework calls for exactly the kind of exploration that PROMYS provides. It calls for a shift away from solving routine problems to problem-solving as the focus of mathematics programs. Indeed, one of the Framework's guiding principles is that students should explore mathematical ideas in ways that help them maintain their enjoyment of and curiosity about mathematics. Accordingly, PROMYS participants are asked to work beyond their centers of competence and to push the limits of their knowledge. The PROMYS community provides a rich support network so that teachers can spend time as mathematics learners in a safe and supportive environment.  This combination of community and rich intellectual environment is a potent tool for engaging participants at a very personal level in an experience of exploring significant ideas.

It is a core belief of PfT that mathematical learning results from learners grappling with challenging material which requires more than the reuse of memorized procedures. To acquire the skills and confidence to tackle unfamiliar problems, students benefit from an education in mathematics which stresses depth over breadth and which emphasizes activities and materials that are low threshold and high ceiling.  

Experience before formality: Over twenty years of experience has confirmed that PROMYS methods of exploration-based teaching enhance learning for students of all ability levels and can be used very successfully in teaching a standard mathematics curriculum.  

Intellectually and socially, the mathematical community at PfT is central to its impact on participants.  Alumni say it gives them ongoing inspiration in their work and has motivated them to remain in the profession. In collaboration, workshops, lectures, and online, this network remains a deeply valued personal resource years, in some cases decades, after teachers first participated in PfT.   

Professor Glenn Stevens and Dr. Al Cuoco

Glenn Stevens: Founder and Director of PROMYS for Teachers and of the PROMYS program for high school students, Glenn is Professor of Mathematics at Boston University. He earned his Ph.D. in Mathematics from Harvard University in 1981.  His research specialties are Number Theory, Automorphic Forms, and Arithmetic Geometry. He has authored or edited three books and published numerous articles on these topics. Glenn has organized major research conferences and has delivered well over two hundred invited lectures around the world. Currently, he serves as Principal Investigator for Assessing Secondary Teachers’ Algebraic Habits of Mind, an NSF DRK-12 collaborative grant with colleagues from Education Development Center, Inc. and St. Olaf College.  Glenn was Principal Investigator of the NSF-funded Focus on Mathematics Math and Science Partnership and xxx co-Principal Investigator of the NSF Noyce grant, Math for America Boston: Teaching Scholars Program. He is also President of Math for America-Boston. 

Al Cuoco: Co-Director of PROMYS for Teachers, Al is Distinguished Scholar at Education Development Center (EDC) and the lead author of CME Project, a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded high school curriculum published by Pearson. Al taught high school mathematics in Woburn, MA for 20 years. He earned his PhD in Mathematics in 1979 and continued teaching high school for another 14 years. His experience as a mathematician and as a teacher are both central to his work in curriculum development, professional teacher development, and education policy.  Recently, Al served as part of a team that revised the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences (CBMS) recommendations for teacher preparation and professional development. He co-directs Focus on Mathematics, a partnership among universities, school districts, and EDC that has established a community of mathematical practice involving mathematicians, teachers, and mathematics educators. Al also co-directs the development of the course for secondary teachers in the Institute for Advanced Study program at the Park City Mathematics Institute.

History of PROMYS

PROMYS has existed for over two decades at Boston University as a program that engages mathematically inclined high school students in the process of mathematical exploration through their work on unusually challenging problems in number theory. Since 1991, PROMYS has also worked with pre-service high school mathematics teachers from the Boston University School of Education. In the summer of 1999, PROMYS expanded its activities again by engaging in-service Massachusetts high school mathematics teachers in the program's summer activities and running five professional development seminars during the academic year.

Between 1992 and 2016, there have been 420 teacher participants and 59 teacher counselors (known as T^2s).  Altogether they have been immersed in mathematics for 787 summers at PROMYS for Teachers.

PROMYS for Teachers Community in 2016

PROMYS for Teachers Faculty
Professor Glenn Stevens (Boston University) Director of PROMYS since 1989
Professor Michael King (Bowdoin College)
              Director of PROMYS for Teachers
Dr. Al Cuoco (Distinguished Scholar at Education Development Center, Inc.)
              Associate Director and Co-Founder of PROMYS for Teachers
Professor Carol Findell (Boston University) - Faculty
Professor Steven Rosenberg (Boston University) Faculty
Professor Marjory Baruch (Syracuse University)
Professor Henry Cohn (Microsoft Research and MIT)
Krishanu Sankar (Harvard University) - PROMYS Research Coordinator

PROMYS for Teachers Counselors
Maria Ines de Frutos Fernandez (Boston University PhD program)
Dr. Ben Fischer (Boston University, Post PhD program)
Maria Fox (Boston University, graduate student)
Alessandro Ghirardi (Boston University, graduate student)
Dr. Hudson Harper (Boston University Post PhD program)
Alexander Hoerman (Winsor School, Boston)
Will Kellogg (Stoughton High School, Stoughton)
Professor Li-Mei Lim (Bard's College of Simon's Rock)
Dr. Tom McCauley (Boston University, Post PhD program)
Rob Sayer (Boston University, graduate student)
Tim Westfield (Boston College High School, Boston)

24 Teachers in the PROMYS for Teachers program: 16 first-year teachers and 8 returning teachers.

PROMYS for Teachers Sponsors

PROMYS for Teachers is grateful for the generous support of its sponsors: Boston University, National Science Foundation, The Noyce Foundation, Math for America, Math for America-Boston, the PROMYS Foundation, and private donors.

PROMYS for Teachers Partners

 PROMYS for Teachers partners with Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC); Math for America-Boston (MfA-B); and Park City Mathematics Institute (PCMI)

Please click here for information about the partners of PROMYS.