Cynthia Oropesa Anhalt is an Associate Research Professor in the Department of Mathematics at her alma mater, The University of Arizona, in Tucson, Arizona. Daughter of a large mining truck mechanic, and later a realtor, and a seamstress-mother, Cynthia grew up attending public schools in Tucson and attended The University of Arizona as a first-generation student. Her family emigrated from Sonora, Mexico to Arizona when she was three years old, and she is grateful for her family’s unwavering love and support in her education. She was raised in east Tucson near Davis Monthan Air Force Base, where she attended school with students from military families from different parts of the country. Her family’s belief in education as a critical component for success inspired her to achieve in mathematics. Her interest in the mathematical preparation of teachers stems from her own experiences as a teacher of mathematics in the K-12 system and from her post-doctoral work with the National Science Foundation funded project, Center for the Mathematics Education of Latino/as. She is passionate about the teaching quality in Latinx/Hispanic communities and about the education of future teachers who will work in these communities. Through graduate school and post graduate, she connected with a number of mentors in the mathematics education community, specifically with those whose research interest is in mathematics education with a focus on teaching and learning for equity and social justice for underrepresented minority students. She continues to build life-long collaborations that aim to establish networks between mathematics educators and mathematicians on common goals in improving mathematics education.
Her research interest lies in the area of mathematical modeling in teacher preparation and student learning, with a particular emphasis on cultural relevance which leverages students’ backgrounds for meaningful learning and teaching practices aimed at inclusion, equity, and social justice. Her publications include book chapters and articles in peer-reviewed journals, such as the Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, Mathematical Teaching and Learning, Mathematics Teacher, and others. Her work in equity and social justice in mathematics education has influenced mathematics teacher preparation, especially for Latinx/Hispanic students through several National Science Foundation (NSF) grants. She is Principal Investigator on multiple projects addressing professional development for prospective and practicing teachers to expand their experiences in mathematical modeling. Her Arizona Noyce project focuses on preparing highly qualified mathematics teachers for diverse student populations. She directed the Mathematical Modeling in the Middle Grades (M3) project, funded by the Arizona Board of Regents, to deepen and broaden teachers’ knowledge of mathematical modeling. She continues to lead professional development in the Mathematical Modeling in Cultural and Community Contexts (M2C3) project and is actively co-authoring mathematical modeling curriculum materials for secondary teacher preparation for the project Mathematics of Doing, Understanding, Learning and Educating for Secondary Schools (MODULES).
Teaching mathematics and future teachers has long been a passion for her. Teaching mathematics is at the heart of mathematics education research. Mathematical modeling, an area in the mathematical preparation of teachers that is underdeveloped, has been a focus for her in both teaching and research, which has served as an opportunity for collaboration with Ricardo Cortez, a research mathematician at Tulane University. Because the field of mathematics education is both a research discipline and an area of practical application, developing materials for courses enhances both the teaching and a collaborative climate for building partnerships between mathematics educators and mathematicians. She believes that establishing these partnerships improves mathematics teacher preparation. Ultimately, her goal is to prepare future teachers to be mindful of teaching strategies in mathematics that incorporate multiple approaches, provide access to rigorous mathematics, and enhance learning opportunities for all students. To this end, she has served as chair of the 2019 Western Regional Noyce Conference and co-chair of the 2019 Critical Issues in Mathematics Education Workshop in mathematical modeling.
Cynthia has served as director for the Secondary Mathematics Education Program at the University of Arizona since 2009. She has been an advocate for the program through scholarship and political forums. Her administrative experiences helped shape the program in ways that prepare future teachers to be cognizant of and understand the importance of culturally relevant mathematics teaching for their future students, especially those who are Latinx/Hispanic students. Her advising in the undergraduate mathematics major includes supporting and encouraging students in planning their coursework, seeking scholarship and internship opportunities, project planning, and improving their study skills in preparing for examinations. She is an advocate for increasing the number of Latinx/Hispanic undergraduate mathematics majors at the University of Arizona.
“Hispanic Heritage Month means celebrating the positive contributions made by Latinx and Hispanic American people to recognize the presence of our rich heritage and culture in our diverse country. By celebrating the accomplishments, we bring a renewed awareness of the Latinx/Hispanic heritage and culture and its growing presence and influence on American culture. Growing up a Latinx/Hispanic female and studying mathematics and education allows me the privilege to support and advocate for Latinx/Hispanic students at the University of Arizona, a recently and proudly recognized Hispanic Serving Institution.”