Nearly two years ago, Kenneth Monty, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and a few of his colleagues sat around a table discussing ways of improving math and science education for grade-school and secondary-school students. "We asked ourselves, `Why is education in math and science, from kindergarten through the 12th grade, not working right?'" Monty recalls. "The problem we hit on is that most teachers never get a chance to see what mathematicians and scientists actually do for a living. They mostly look at the textbooks."

>From that informal gathering and its deceptively simple conclusions sprang the idea for a forum to educate educators: the Academy for Teachers of Science and Mathematics, a four-week resident program that will host 75 teachers from Tennessee and three nearby states beginning this summer.

At first glance, the academy seems similar to other recent teacher-education efforts by federal and...

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