FSC department wins grant to study effective teaching of algebra
LAKELAND, Fla. (April 13, 2006) — The Florida Southern College Mathematics and Computer Science Department has been chosen as one of eleven such departments at national colleges and universities to participate in a grant funded by the National Science Foundation in conjunction with the Mathematical Association of America (M.A.A.). The grant-funded program will compare two approaches to teaching college algebra in the spring and fall academic terms of 2006.
The first approach will focus on the traditional method of teaching students the concepts and formulas in algebra before teaching students to apply those concepts and formulas to solve problems. The second method will have less of an emphasis on formulas and will focus instead on teaching through modeling and the use of technology to solve algebraic problems. Seven pilot sections and seven control or traditional sections of College Algebra will be offered over the two-term study period
“The department is delighted to participate in a study that will have an immediate impact on our teaching practice,” said Ken Henderson, associate professor of mathematics. “College Algebra can be a challenging course to teach, as students who take it often have felt unsuccessful in high school math courses. We continually search for the best methods of instruction for our students, and anticipate learning a great deal from this study. We hope to connect mathematics to the real world and help our students become exploratory learners with an emphasis on writing and critical thinking.”
Drs. Susan A. Serrano, Gayle S. Kent, Daniel D. Jelsovsky, and Henderson will participate in the M.A.A. Committee on Curriculum Renewal Across the First Two Years’ (CRAFTY) project that will compare the two methods. Dr. Barbara Edwards of Oregon State University, a respected mathematics education researcher, will design and coordinate the research.
After the department won the grant, Henderson and Serrano attended the “Considering the Options Workshop” August 1-3 at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, N.M., held in conjunction with MathFest, M.A.A.’s annual summer meeting. The workshop explored study implementation issues and provided participants with materials and approaches to adopt in their courses. In December, Dr. Bruce Cruader of Oklahoma State University led a modeling workshop at FSC. Serrano plans to attend this year’s Math Fest in Knoxville, Tenn. to describe the study’s progress.
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