North Carolina education professors recently received a $2 million grant to help fund research projects to investigate new methods of teaching math. The funding comes from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and is being focused into two distinct projects.
The first of these projects is designed to help elementary school teachers find new methods of talking to kids about math. There is a vocab barrier that can make it difficult to explain some of the more advanced concepts in mathematics to young children, and this study intends to break it down.
At the same time, the second project intends to bypass words entirely. Some students respond more to spatial and visual learning styles. The intent of the project is to develop visual tools for K-12 students, games that will allow them to learn without lecture.
Paola Sztajn, department head for Teacher Education Learning Sciences in North Carolina, is acting as the principal investigator for both projects. She earned the spot after leading a team of colleagues in research that helped provide teachers with mathematics lessons that students could participate more actively in. Szatjn will be involved in both projects, but her focus will be the evaluation of the research practices of the first project.
“We want to scale up our efforts to help elementary teachers, who are generalists, learn to use a variety of strategies to promote mathematics conversations that engage all students in the classroom,” Sztajn says.
Sztajn is joined by one of her colleagues, Teomara Rutherford, an assistant professor of educational psychology. She will be taking on the task of formally evaluating the effectiveness of visual math games being tested on over 800,000 students across the country.
The results of both projects and the resulting reports from Szatjn and Rutherford will have a huge impact on the math world. It has the potential to shape the development of new tools and games for teaching as well as the content include in lesson plans for years to come.