Group photos of Martha Mulligan standing with teaching colleagues

Meet Martha Mulligan, an educator from Chicago who participated in the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Research Program to Singapore. 

Why I applied 

My students are from minority-majority communities and places in the city. I focus on teaching and learning algebra. It’s such a gateway. When students feel successful in algebra, it encourages them to keep improving in math. I had also been teaching pre-service teachers and learning along with them. I asked, “What else can I do to grow as a teacher?” Then I found out about the Fulbright program, where you can meet teachers in different countries who are doing things differently and very well.

What I did 

Singapore scores high on PISA and tests where countries are compared to each other. Math is very strong there. In Singapore, I observed classrooms and teachers and got to review their curriculums. I learned more about educational technology. They were using games so that kids were more interested in learning. That was the big thing for me.

What changed 

Before going, I did a pilot program in algebra to help struggling students get up to speed. There was a unit that pulled on U.S. western expansion in the 1800s. It had a lot of worthwhile tasks. Yet after living in Singapore for six months, I realized that this didn’t resonate with my urban kids. I came back with a new four-week program. I changed it thematically to life in the big city. How many people can fit in this apartment? What’s the change rate for the train? How long will it take to get somewhere by bike? I’ve also made it more of a package. Since then, it’s taken on a life of its own. It expanded to seven schools. It was online last year because of the pandemic with more than 30 schools participating.