The UCLA Curtis Center for Mathematics and Teaching uniquely employs the skills of both K-12 and university mathematics instructors to provide an increasing number of U.S students access to an internationally bench-marked, world-class mathematics education.
Our work includes:
- Providing opportunities for K-12 mathematics faculty to grow their knowledge of mathematics and apply it to the work of teaching
- Training administrators for mathematics instructional leadership
- Training undergraduates to prepare for careers in mathematics teaching and teacher leadership
- Developing mathematics curriculum and assessments that engage students in creative reasoning and meaningful application of mathematics.
The UCLA Curtis Center is involved in a variety of activities that benefit from the intersection of university and K-12 mathematics expertise. This activity is the continuation of decades of departmental involvement in the entire spectrum of mathematical activity, from K-12 to university to career. The department’s involvement at the pre-collegiate level was significantly shaped by Professor Emeritus Phil Curtis over a fifty-year period. While producing pioneering and internationally recognized work in the Banach Algebra, Professor Curtis served twice as Department Chair and advocated for departmental involvement in K-12 mathematics activity. Over his many years of service, he worked to establish six programs supporting K-12 mathematics activity including the statewide UC/CSU California Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Project, the UCLA Visiting High School Teacher Program and the UCLA Joint Mathematics Education Program, the UCLA Mathematics Project, the UCLA Math Content Program for Teachers, and a program which prepared K-12 students for competitive mathematics exams.
Building upon Professor Curtis’ tradition, at the impetus of Chair Christoph Theile and Professor Theodore Gamelin, the UCLA Math Department established the Philip C. Curtis Jr. Center for Mathematics and Teaching on June 5, 2007 and appointed Professor Curtis as its first Faculty Advisor and Heather Dallas as its Executive Director.
Professor Phil Curtis passed on December 19, 2016, and we miss him dearly.
Mathematicians and Teachers Working Together
Professor Phil Curtis recognized that no one person has the totality of expertise required to effect meaningful, high-impact positive change in America’s K-12 mathematics activity. In each of his programs, he intentionally developed non-hierarchical collaborative communities of K-12 and university mathematics faculty. This respectful ethos was the fertile soil that grew the Department’s current K-12 mathematics activity and is now the sunlight to which it leans. Curtis Center efforts are still regularly effected by teams of K-12 and university mathematics faculty. Whether authoring new K-12 or continuing education curriculum, assessments, and courses of study, university mathematics faculty often benefit a collaboration by enhancing mathematical precision, highlighting the mathematical horizon, and/or suggesting mathematically interesting questions. K-12 mathematics faculty benefit collaborations by focusing the work on mathematical issues most relevant to K-12 mathematics departments and providing professional knowledge of language, pedagogy, and sequencing appropriate to the K-12 classroom as well as an understanding of student’s common errors and interests.
Honoring Dorothy Smith Curtis
Mrs. Dorothy Smith Curtis was a wife, mother and educator whose contributions led to the establishment of The Philip C. Curtis Jr. Center and its success working towards a world class mathematics education for all students. While the late Professor Phil Curtis provided energetic inspiration, Dot was the glue that held it all together. Dorothy passed away peacefully on November 16th, 2020, and we miss her tremendously.
Learn more about our friend, supporter and inspiration here.
The family would like donations and memorials to be directed toward
The UCLA Curtis Center. To donate, click here.
Heather Dallas has taught mathematics for almost 30 years in local public schools and the UCLA Mathematics Department. As a public school teacher, Heather co-developed a specialized course for students previously excluded from Algebra in which failure rates were cut in half. In addition, she increased student access to success in BC AP Calculus, increasing enrollments seven-fold while maintaining an almost 100% pass rate. During this time, she taught and developed curriculum for the professional development efforts of both the California Math Project and the UCLA Mathematics Department. In 2000, she served as the UCLA Mathematics Department’s youngest ever Department Visiting High School Teacher and since then she has trained almost 20 cohorts of senior mathematics majors to be secondary mathematics teachers in her role as lecturer in the Department.
In her role as Director of The Curtis Center, Heather has led multiple projects with districts and industry partners aimed at improving the quality of mathematics activity in schools. She served as PI on two California Math Science Partnership grants and directed the 2015-17 Smarter Balanced Performance Task Development Project. In addition, she regularly provides national and statewide leadership in mathematics education, and has served on the California Academic Content Standards Committee, the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Race to the Top Technical Review, and the California Framework Committee. She is also a Nationally Board Certified Teacher. Heather’s father was the first LAUSD mathematics teacher to bring computers into the classroom in 1978 and her grandfather was a high school English teacher.
Michelle Sidwell earned a B.S. in Mathematics/Economics and a Masters of Education during her time at UCLA. During this time, she also engaged in mathematical research in the prestigious RIPS program at the UCLA Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics. Upon graduation, Michelle taught mathematics at Crenshaw High School for six years. In this role, Michelle developed much of her own curriculum and significantly expanded student access to and success in AP Calculus and AP Statistics.
At The Curtis Center, Michelle has taught mathematics courses and professional development institutes for current teachers and authored curriculum for the mathematical training of teachers, including an 80-hour inquiry-based Geometry course. She served on the Project Leadership of BRIDGES, a California Math Science Partnership with Glendale Unified School District. In addition, she served as the High School Grade Band Leader for the 2015-2017 Smarter Balanced Performance Task Project, authoring and editing assessment items for use in summative statewide assessments used across 21 US States. Recently, she oversaw the development of 13 Geometry lessons which benefited from the use of magnetic polygonal tools, called Magformers, as concrete models.
Director of Professional Development
Helen Chan earned a B.S. in Mathematics/Applied Science, a California Teaching Credential, and a Master of Education from UCLA. She has 23 years of experience in K-16 mathematics education, including 11 years with the UCLA Mathematics Department. In the Department, Helen taught mathematics courses for future elementary school teachers and mathematics courses for current elementary school teachers and co-authored a number of mathematics courses for current teachers.
Helen has authored Smarter Balanced Performance Tasks for use on summative statewide assessments across more than 21 US States. Currently, she leads the Center’s professional development team.
Director of Assessment
Michelle Welford holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, a Master’s in Education and is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher. She taught high school mathematics for 10 years during which time she wrote her own Geometry and AP Statistics curriculum. Her efforts significantly improved student access to success on the AP Statistics exam, with pass rates increasing from 20% to 94% after she took over the program. Michelle followed these successes by serving for five years as an instructional coach at University High School for the Los Angeles Unified School District during which time she also wrote professional development curriculum in geometry for the UCLA Mathematics Department.
Michelle’s work for The UCLA Curtis Center, draws on her extensive knowledge of mathematics, pedagogy, Common Core State Standards, incorporation of technology, teamwork/collaboration with others, meticulous attention to detail, and time management. Michelle Welford was Co-Director of the 2015-2017 Smarter Balanced Performance Task Project during which time she was pivotal in the development of 168 mathematical modeling tasks used in summative assessments across 21 US States.
Secondary Mathematics Specialist
Rachel Behr-Hirst holds a Master of Arts in Education, a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics for Teaching from UCLA. She served as both a teacher and instructional coach in under-served high poverty schools in South Central Los Angeles and East Los Angeles.
Currently, Rachel provides mathematical and pedagogical training to mathematics teachers across California, in addition to authoring mathematics performance tasks as part of the Center’s partnership with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Rachel has particular expertise in the analysis of CAASPP data for formative assessment.
Secondary Mathematics Specialist
Eden Murphy holds a Master of Arts in Education, a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics. Her practitioner experience includes ten years of mathematics teaching and coaching in the Apple Valley Unified School District, during which time she worked to create an equitable and accessible pathway to Calculus, while also becoming a leader in instruction that centers around student inquiry of mathematics by means of modeling and proof. Currently, Eden provides mathematical and pedagogical training to mathematics teachers across California, in addition to authoring mathematics performance tasks as part of the Center’s partnership with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Eden has particular expertise around best practices for online instruction as well as appropriate use of educational technologies in the mathematics classroom.
Secondary Mathematics Specialist
Julian Rojas holds a Master of Arts in Education and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics for Teaching from UCLA. He has seven years of practitioner experience teaching mathematics, engineering and computer science in public and private schools in Los Angeles. He has taught at both the middle and high school levels. Julian’s career has been marked by advocacy for under-served, marginalized and at-risk communities including liaison work to the Spanish speaking community and Diversity Equity and Inclusion work. Julian currently provides mathematical and pedagogical training to mathematics teachers across the State of California.
Robin Bolour graduated from Santa Monica College with an Associate of Arts in General Science, and from UCLA with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Robin completed the Kumon North America Mathematics Program in 2009 at the age of 16, allowing him to not only excel in his high school Calculus courses but also to appreciate the importance of an investment in one’s education. Currently, Robin provides administrative support for Center’s financial and programmatic needs. In his spare time, he enjoys fitness, healthy cooking, and sightseeing the wonderful landscapes of California.
Math For LA Liaison
Mariana Narvaez is a senior at UCLA working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics for Teaching and a minor in Education Studies. She is also working toward a CA Teaching Credential and Master’s in Education through the Curtis Center and Graduate School of Education’s “Joint Math Ed Pathway”. She aims to dedicate her teaching to under-served schools while advocating for quality education in socio-economically disadvantaged communities.
As a Math for LA Liaison, Mariana organizes information sessions for undergraduate students and provides peer counseling to undergraduate students interested in pursuing a career in mathematics education.
Professor Chris Anderson received his A.B. in Mathematics and Ph. D. in Applied Mathematics from UC Berkeley. He has taught Mathematics at UCLA since 1986 as has served as the Director of the UCLA Program in Computing (PIC) since 2005.
Chris has presented at the annual Curtis Center Mathematics and Teaching Conference, created applied math tasks for the 2015-2017 Smarter Balanced Performance Task Project, and served as an editor for mathematics and physical science lessons written by teachers in BRIDGES, the Center’s California Math Science Partnership with Glendale Unified School District. At UCLA, he has served on the UCLA Academic Senate Committee on Instructional Improvement for over ten years and is also a recipient of the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award.
Professor Marcus Roper received his Ph. D. in mathematics from Harvard University and joined the UCLA Mathematics Department in 2010. In addition to teaching mathematics, he conducts research in mathematical problems coming from physics and biology. He is particularly interested in fungal mycelia, the microvascular system and design and optimization of inertial microfluidic devices.
Marcus has collaborated with The Curtis Center by editing mathematics and physical science lessons written by teachers in the Center’s California Math Science Partnership Grant with Glendale Unified, editing K-12 lessons written for use with Magformers, a magnetic polygons used as concrete models in instruction, as well as speaking to teachers about current mathematical research. In addition, Marcus supports the development of future teachers by serving as the advisor to undergraduate math majors studying to be future high school teachers as they engage in summer research in applied mathematics.
Emeritus Faculty Advisor
Professor Emeritus James Ralston received his Ph. D. in Mathematics from Stanford University in 1969. He joined the UCLA Mathematics Department in 1970 and his research focuses on partial differential equations. In addition, to teaching in the Department, he has served as Mathematics Department Chair and Vice Chair and advisor to 13 students.
In his work at The Curtis Center, Jim edits mathematics curriculum for use in professional development as well as K-12 classrooms, as well as content for district curriculum guides. He has presented at the Center’s annual Conference and edited and authored applied math tasks for the 2015-2017 Smarter Balanced Performance Task Project. In addition, he provides oversight and support for the UCLA Math Department’s mathematics courses for future teachers (Math 71, 72 103 and 105). Most importantly, he knows the whereabouts of all good hikes in Sequoia National Park 🙂