Login to MyLSU

LSU's Cain Center Helps Louisiana Science and Math Teachers From Across the State

STEM skills – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – are some of the most difficult courses to teach and yet some of the most important for our country's future development.


CART, the Central Louisiana Academic Residency for Teachers, and LAMSTI, the Louisiana Math and Science Teacher Institute, are focused at finding and enhancing teaching talent in STEM areas and channeling that talent into Louisiana school systems.
Jim Zietz/University Relations

According to the Information Technology Industry Council, a recent Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, study placed the science literacy of United States citizen’s well below average, coming in behind 20 other countries – including Finland, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Czech Republic, Ireland, Hungary, Poland and France.  The United States does even more poorly in math, coming in behind 24 other countries (http://www.itic.org/governmentrelations/stem-education/).

With the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting a gap of approximately 7 million skilled workers by 2016, STEM education in this country appears to need a drastic overhaul. Researchers at LSU not only agree, but have taken action with two extremely successful programs focused on bringing highly qualified and driven STEM teachers into K-12 classrooms across Louisiana, and making those teachers already in the classroom even better.

CART, the Central Louisiana Academic Residency for Teachers, and LAMSTI, the Louisiana Math and Science Teacher Institute, are focused at finding and enhancing teaching talent in STEM areas and channeling that talent into Louisiana school systems. The programs are run by LSU’s Gordon A. Cain Center for STEM Literacy, which has the vision of providing leadership in interdisciplinary educational research and practices that support and enhance literacy in STEM fields.


Many of the CART and LAMSTI workshops focus on solving a presented problem, then going back through the steps involved in posing the same problem to grade school students, including a variety of conceptually-motivated methods that lead to the same answer.
Jim Zietz/University Relations

“These programs are breaking down the walls between the academic STEM research community and the K-12 classroom,” said James Madden, co-director of the Cain Center, director of the LAMSTI program and professor of mathematics at LSU. “We are all teachers. Knowledge is for everyone – it’s time that we all put our heads together to make the K-12 system better in our state.”

Central Louisiana, often referred to as Cenla, historically has a high poverty rate in its parishes, particularly in rural communities. Because of limited resources, school districts often have difficulty providing a rigorous education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. To rectify this situation, LSU, together with The Rapides Foundation, The Orchard Foundation, LSU-Alexandria and the Louisiana Department of Education, have established CART. The program was funded by an $8 million U.S. Department of Education grant with matching and in-kind funds from LSU, The Rapides Foundation, The Orchard Foundation and LSU-Alexandria, as well as participating districts for a total of $16 million, and represents a committed partnership of nine Cenla high poverty rural school districts: Allen, Avoyelles, Catahoula, Grant, LaSalle, Nachitoches, Rapides, Vernon and Winn.

CART is targeted at developing new teachers through finding individuals with degrees in relevant fields and offering them the training and academic, professional and financial support necessary to become a certified teacher. After one summer of intensive training on LSU’s campus, these novice teachers are paired with a mentor at a Central Louisiana K-12 school where they spend the academic year gaining practical, hands-on experience in the classroom. After their second summer at LSU and successful completion of the program, students receive a Master of Natural Sciences degree, an offering of the LSU College of Science, are able to become certified and repay the support they were provided through a minimum of three years of service to the Cenla region.


James Madden, co-director of the Cain Center, director of the LAMSTI program and professor of mathematics at LSU, leads a classroom full of teachers in discussion.
Jim Zietz/University Relations

“This is a new model that allows people who do not have education degrees to become teachers,” said Frank Neubrander, co-director of the Cain Center, director of CART and Demarcus D. Smith Alumni Professor of Mathematics. “It’s difficult to get and keep science and math teachers in rural central Louisiana, so this program incentivizes teaching for qualified applicants. All of the participants in the CART program are good teachers. If any one of them taught my children, I’d be happy.”

LAMSTI, on the other hand, is a program developed to benefit existing science and math teachers in the East Baton Rouge Parish area. Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, or NSF, the program sponsors a special track of the Master of Natural Sciences degree. Designed for practicing middle and high-school math or science teachers with at least one year of experience in the classroom, LAMSTI includes graduate course work designed to increase teachers’ knowledge and command of their subject matter and curriculum (factors that have been proven to increase student achievement), as well as preparation for service as lead teachers, mentors and coaches. At the end of the 27 months participants spend in the institute, successful candidates will receive a master’s degree. NSF provides a total of $20,000 in stipends for each of the 24 students accepted into the LaMSTI program each year.


LAMSTI and CART run simultaneously throughout the summer, with students participating in intensive workshops and labs while also inspiring one another.
Jim Zietz/University Relations

LAMSTI and CART run simultaneously throughout the summer, with students participating in intensive workshops and labs while also inspiring one another. Many of the gatherings focus on solving a presented problem, then going back through the steps involved in posing the same problem to grade school students, including a variety of conceptually-motivated methods that lead to the same answer. In science-based groups, science candidates are shown methods and styles of STEM-based pedagogy that have been demonstrated to be effective by nationally-prominent science education research groups.

“One thing that has changed [in my teaching] has been to not only find a solution, but to find as many different ways to get a solution as possible,” said Bonnie Bergstresser, LAMSTI program participant. Bergstresser, who taught high school math at East Baton Rouge Laboratory Academy prior to its closure, now teaches at Episcopal. “That not only opens my mind mathematically, but also helps me in terms of teaching. I often need [to present] multiple ways to solve a problem in order to reach every learner in the class.”

CART and LAMSTI participants benefit not only from exposure to new techniques in math and science, but also from working in groups of other teachers, inspiring one another to think beyond the everyday and try new approaches to age-old classroom problems. And research supports the impact of these teacher training programs on state budgets. A study published in the prestigious journal Science (“Teachers’ Participation in Research Programs Improves Their Students’ Achievement,” http://www.sciencemag.org/content/326/5951/440.full) shows that three to four years after completion, participating teachers’ students pass science exams at a rate significantly  higher than non-participating teachers’ student. Also, the same article indicates that for every dollar invested in such programs, the immediate return rate is $1.14, with a long-term return of $10.27.


CART and LAMSTI participants benefit not only from exposure to new techniques in math and science, but also from working in groups of other teachers, inspiring one another to think beyond the everyday and try new approaches to age-old classroom problems.
Jim Zietz/University Relations

“We have some very dedicated faculty already participating in the program, but we hope to work with many more,” said Madden. “LSU faculty are extremely busy with research, teaching and all the other demands of being faculty at a research university, but time devoted to these programs is of exceptional value, since it directly addresses the state’s biggest problem – the quality of our educational system.”