**A National Science Foundation grant
supports a new approach for STEM degree hopefuls.**

“There is clear and growing evidence that we can improve math learning and retention for all students through active learning that promotes cognitive engagement.”

Challenging introductory mathematics courses are the most common roadblock to earning undergraduate degrees in the STEM fields. In an effort to help students get past this roadblock, San Diego State University and 11 other universities across the nation announced they will scale up the adoption of “active learning” skills for undergraduate pre-calculus and calculus instruction.

Active learning, explained SDSU mathematician **Chris Rasmussen**, refers to a broad range of instructional approaches that provide students with opportunities to engage in the learning process with meaningful mathematical activities. Active learning also improves skills such as communication and teamwork, which are highly valued by employers.

“There is clear and growing evidence that we can improve math learning and retention for all students through active learning that promotes cognitive engagement,” he said.

**Three SDSU faculty involved**

Over the past year, SDSU has worked with the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), the University of Colorado-Boulder and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to better understand how math departments can increase and sustain the use of active learning in introductory mathematics courses. Co-principal investigators Rasmussen, **Mike O’Sullivan** and **Janet Bowers** in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at SDSU are leading this initiative.

Eight other institutions will join the effort to further study and develop practical models applicable to virtually any institution. Those additional partners include: California State University, East Bay; California State University, Fullerton; Kennesaw State University; Loyola University; Morgan State University; Ohio State University; the University of Maryland; the University of Oklahoma; and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is supporting the project, known as SEMINAL: Student Engagement in Mathematics through an Institutional Network for Active Learning, with a $3 million, five-year grant. The initiative will place particular emphasis on helping underrepresented minority students succeed in introductory math courses that are the foundation of STEM fields.

**Research-based effort**

Far too many students hoping to pursue careers in STEM fields get tripped up by introductory math courses right from the start, explained **Howard Gobstein**, executive vice president of the APLU and one of the principal investigators of the NSF-funded initiative.

“With a persistent shortage of skilled workers in STEM fields and unequal access to all students, we have a tremendous opportunity to broaden participation and address the biggest hurdle for students’ success,” he said. “We are thrilled to scale an approach that we know works to help more students realize their dreams in STEM fields.”

Research has shown that introductory math courses provide the cornerstone for success in STEM majors and fields, and active learning has proven highly effective in helping more students succeed in such core courses. For example, the largest study of undergraduate STEM education literature to date—a meta-analysis of 225 studies published by the National Academies in 2014—found that undergraduate students in classes using active learning methods had higher course grades by half a letter grade, and students in classes with traditional lectures were 1.5 times more likely to fail.

“In response, the presidents of the professional societies in the mathematical sciences have called for the incorporation of these practices into all mathematics courses,” said **David M. Bressoud**, director of the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences. “But most faculty are not conversant with how to do this effectively, and most departments do not know how to foster the changes that need to be made. SDSU, APLU and their partnering universities through SEMINAL are demonstrating how departments can enable and support these innovations.”

By Jill Esterbrooks

http://newscenter.sdsu.edu/sdsu_newscenter/news_story.aspx?sid=77079

January 25, 2018

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The California Department of Education has recently awarded San Diego State University and the Sweetwater Union High School District one of five $1.28 million California Mathematics Readiness Challenge Initiative (CMRCI) grants. The goal of the CMRCI program is to is to provide in-depth professional learning opportunities for collaborative teams of secondary educators, their school-site administrator, and faculty from their partner institution(s) of higher education to support the implementation and evaluation of grade 12 experiences that are designed to prepare pupils for placement into college-level courses in mathematics. San Diego State and Sweetwater are using the grant to design and implement a discrete mathematics course for high school seniors. The project builds on the existing infrastructure of the SDSU-Sweetwater Compact for Success, and this work provides a structure for faculty and teachers to collaborate around designing a course to better prepare prospective students. The new curriculum will be used in Sweetwater’s Discrete Math classes during the 2017-18 school year.

Principal Investigator, Dr. Osvaldo “Ovie” Soto, is a 17-year veteran high school teacher and a graduate of the SDSU-UCSD doctoral program in mathematics education. Soto also has an MS in Mathematics from SDSU. Since completing his doctoral studies, Dr. Soto has dedicated his career to the improvement of mathematics instruction in the San Diego region by mentoring over 50 secondary math teachers through Math for America San Diego’s Master Teacher Fellowship Program. Professors Randy Philipp (School of Teacher Education) and Bill Zahner (Mathematics and Statistics Department), of SDSU’s Center for Mathematics and Science Education, are the grant’s Co-PIs. Sweetwater’s Assistant Superintendent Ana Maria Alvarez is the grant’s Co-PI at the district, and she is assisted by Roman Del Rosario, the Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction. Professors Mike O’Sullivan (Mathematics and Statistics Dept. Chair) and Vadim Ponomarenko (Department of Mathematics), are supporting the grant’s teachers as consultants. This was made possible through the support of College of Sciences Dean Stanley Maloy and College of Education Dean Joe Johnson.

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A significant contribution of the work will be connecting the research on mathematics learning generally with research on mathematics learning of English language learners. In addition to advancing theoretical understandings, the research will also contribute practical resources and guidance for mathematics teachers who teach English language learners.

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program is a National Science Foundation (NSF)-wide activity that offers awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

Zahner’s abstract is available on the NSF website below.

http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1553708&HistoricalAwards=false

The familiar YouTube-style videos of solutions to math problems have been used world-wide to help students learn basic math. Dr. Lobato’s $440 thousand grant will allow her team to create and test a model of online videos that embodies a more expansive vision of both the nature of the content and the pedagogical approach than is currently represented in YouTube-style lessons. Rather than the procedurally-oriented expository approach of videos that dominate the internet, the videos produced for this project will focus on developing mathematical meanings and conceptual understanding. They will feature pairs of middle school and high school students, highlighting their dialogue, explanations, and alternative conceptions. Despite the tremendous growth in the availability of mathematics videos online, little research has investigated student learning from them. Consequently, a major contribution of this proposed work will be a set of four vicarious learning studies. The grant provides funds a research assistantship for C. David Walters (on right in photo), a student in the Mathematics and Science Education Doctoral Program (MSED) ]]>

- BOWERS, Janet, Associate Professor
*Development of Conceptual Learning with Technology*

GMCS-570, (619) 594-6361, jbowers@sunstroke.sdsu.edu

- LOBATO, Joanne, Associate Professor
*Transfer of Learning, Algebraic Thinking, and International Comparisons of Learner Practices in Mathematics Classrooms*

GMCS-573, (619) 594-2957, lobato@math.sdsu.edu- NEMIROVSKY, Ricardo, Professor
*Mathematical Understanding, Use of Symbols, Embodied Cognition*

GMCS-503, (619) 594-6806, nemirovsky@sciences.sdsu.edu

NICKERSON, Susan D., Assistant Professor*Algebraic Thinking, Situated Cognition*

GMCS-563, (619) 594-4338, snickers@sunstroke.sdsu.edu

- RASMUSSEN, Chris, Associate Professor
*Advanced Mathematical Thinking*

GMCS-571, (619) 594-7241, chrisraz@sciences.sdsu.edu