Campus: CSU Fullerton -- October 11, 2002

Math Wizard Awarded $6.4 Million Grant to Improve Math Instruction

David L. Pagni, the Cal State Fullerton professor of mathematics who once dressed as a wizard to stress the magic of learning math for a wide-eyed audience of elementary school children, has been awarded a $6,483,054 National Science Foundation grant - the largest ever for the university- to enhance teacher training and help students to excel in learning mathematics.
Cal State Fullerton will partner in the effort with four Orange County school districts to reach more than 9,000 high-school students and more than 7,000 middle-school students to improve academic performance in mathematics.

The five-year grant for “Teachers Assisting Students to Excel in Learning Mathematics” tops Pagni’s previous record-setting $6 million grant, also awarded by NSF, for a program that improved the way math is taught in the Santa Ana Unified School District.

Beginning in March, more than 100 teachers will participate in the new program, from the Fullerton Joint Union High School District, Buena Park School District, Garden Grove Unified School District and Orange Unified School District.

“This is a standards-based, data-driven program designed to improve students’ performance in math by giving their teachers the knowledge and tools to accurately diagnose students’ deficiencies, assess their progress and to transform the departmental culture to maximize student learning in mathematics,” said Pagni.

The plan centers around four specific strategies: using data to get results, improving classroom assessment, coaching and mentoring and increasing content knowledge. The program requires that teachers take an active role in their professional development, share their experiences with one another, improve their subject knowledge, and develop new, standards-based approaches to curriculum and teaching skills.

“One of the goals is to help teachers become student-focused, as well as subject-focused,” said Pagni.

Extensive teacher training will be provided, with sessions to be conducted in the teachers’ home districts or in a central location. In some cases, teachers will take classes at Cal State Fullerton. An individual study plan will be developed for each teacher.

The program will be organized in four “clusters,” with each centered on a high school and the middle schools that serve as feeders to that campus. Participating high schools are: Buena Park, Los Amigos in Fountain Valley, Santiago in Garden Grove and Orange.

A CSUF mathematics professor will be assigned to oversee each cluster along with a full-time mathematics coach. Professors include Martin Bonsangue, Gerald Gannon, Armando Martinez-Cruz and Harris Shultz. Coaches are yet to be named.

Pagni also will be assisted by Dianne Lynette DeMille of the Orange County Department of Education and Patricia Ann Howell, assistant superintendent of education and assessment services for the Fullerton Joint Union High School District.

In 1996, Pagni - named Outstanding Professor of the Year in 1993 by Cal State Fullerton and in 1994 by the CSU - donned a sorcerer’s hat and robe and waved a magic wand, much to the delight of an assembly of children at Henniger Elementary School in Santa Ana. The occasion was a special ceremony to announce the program that became known as SUMS (Students Using Math Successfully) in the Santa Ana Unified School District.

SUMS involved more than 1,800 teachers and their principals who underwent 100 hours of special mathematics education.

Media Contacts:
David L. Pagni, professor of mathematics, at (714) 278-2671 or
Dave Reid, Public Affairs, at (714) 278-4855 or

Photo: A high-resolution image of Pagni can be downloaded from the university’s Web site at:

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