Amanda Cangelosi Receives U's Early
Career Teaching Award
Amanda Cangelosi, instructor (lecturer) in the Mathematics Department, has received the 2021 Early Career Teaching Award from the University of Utah. The award is given to outstanding young faculty members who have made significant contributions to teaching at the university. Specifically, the University Teaching Committee looks for a faculty member who has distinguished her or himself through the development of new and innovative teaching methods, effectiveness in the curriculum and classroom, as well as commitment to enhancing student learning.
“I’m honored to receive this award and recognition from the university,” said Cangelosi. “Since my work focuses on the preparation of future Utah K-12 teachers, which intersects with social justice goals in a foundational way, this award means that the U cares about dismantling systemic oppression. There is nothing more systemic than K-12 education, and thus no more impactful space to invest one’s energy.”
In her approach to teaching, Cangelosi believes it's important for children to have math teachers who are skillfully trained to break the unhealthy and dangerous cycle of students who make value judgments about their self-worth based upon their achievement (or lack of) in math. “Issues of mathematical status and power between students in a math classroom need to be recognized and attended to by teachers so children don’t label themselves as “stupid” or, equally-dangerously, as “smart” relative to each other,” she said.
To overcome social divisions and stratifications within the classroom, Cangelosi believes teachers need to focus on creating productive, collaborative, and student-centered learning activities, implementing culturally relevant lessons, using multiple approaches to teaching math, and embracing unconventional approaches. Implementing these strategies require teachers to engage in challenging identity work, understanding the history of education in the U.S., embracing heterogeneous classrooms, and engaging in anti-bias and anti-racist training within mathematical contexts.
In her own teaching, Cangelosi draws heavily from the mainstream math education literature. For example, several of her students were personally affected from watching and reflecting upon Danny Martin's Taking a Knee in Mathematics Education talk from the 2018 annual conference of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Cangelosi’s teaching contributions include the following:
- She taught a math lab class at Bryant Middle School for the 2019-2020 academic year to deepen productive collaborations between the U and local schools, thereby creating a seamless practicum space for undergraduate Math Teaching majors, while providing long-term outreach to the local community.
- Inspired by Utah State University’s teaching practicum, in 2011 she established the current innovative structure of the Math 4095 course—including funding (often out of her own pocket) for mentor teachers, which resulted in onsite, fully-contained classrooms at local schools for University of Utah teaching majors.
- During the pandemic, she created a sustainable and equitable virtual after-school tutoring program that allowed local high school students to meet with math undergraduates for homework support.
- She created sanitized manipulatives kits to be distributed to her students for use in online synchronous lectures and labs, to help maintain the integrity of her hands-on collaborative Math 2000/4010/4020 classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- She helped develop course curricula for Math 2000, Math 1010, and Math 4090/4095, introducing and modifying resources from her previous work as a secondary math teacher at The Urban School of San Francisco, bringing what are now mainstream practices to the University of Utah.
- She has made numerous community, school-district-level, and Utah State Board of Education (USBE) contributions, such as diverse teacher recruitment, committees, and professional development.
“I love approaching old concepts in new, nontraditional ways, because we so often confound our understanding of concepts with the arbitrary conventions that we use to communicate them,” she said. “This often challenges student perceptions of classroom status and power in productive ways, often flipping the previously conditioned dynamic on its head and inviting students to rewrite their mathematical identities in a positive light.”
Cangelosi received her Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics Education, as well as a Master’s of Statistics degree from Utah State University. She also has a post-baccalaureate degree in mathematics from Smith College. She joined the U’s Math Department in 2011.