News Release| NSF-funded Math Projects; Cal State L.A.

Cal State L.A. formulates equations for better math education

National Science Foundation grants fund MOEBIUS, A^3 projects

Los Angeles, CA – Two Cal State L.A. research teams are employing advanced math skills to train a new crop of educators and to address student learning and teaching in a local school district, respectively. Through the support of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Cal State L.A. a pair of grants to improve students’ foundational understanding and interests in mathematics.

Fueled by a $899,966 NSF Robert Noyce Scholars grant, CSULA’s Mathematics Professor Debasree Raychaudhuri (Pasadena resident) and her colleagues in math and education have developed a program that combines an innovative curriculum with a support network to better guide and prepare CSULA students for the reality of the field.

According to Raychaudhuri, the MOEBIUS (Mathematics on Education Based Integrated Understanding Scholars) project will teach the designated Noyce Scholars the three R’s: math content (rigor), tools for making content meaningful to students (relevance), and how to utilize advanced mathematics skills in foundational courses so not to lose their own knowledge (retention).

The scholars also have the added bonus of receiving financial support for their studies—up to $20,000 for a two-year period—and of enrolling in the blended program, which allows students to pursue a math degree and California Single Subject Credential simultaneously.

Within the next five years, Professor Raychaudhuri plans to prepare as many as 40 talented math majors and professionals to become middle and high school teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District high-need areas.

For more details about the MOEBIUS project, go to http://instructional1.calstatela.edu/msti/MOEBIUS%20application%20package%2009.pdf.   

With a $284,002 NSF Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP-START) grant, CSULA’s Mathematics Professor Borislava Gutarts (Los Angeles-San Fernando Valley resident) has teamed up with colleagues, student researchers and the Montebello Unified School District to analyze high school students’ performance in Algebra over several years.

In doing so, the goal for the A^3 (Active Approach to Algebra) project is to identify problem areas and present solutions to better guide teachers in providing the groundwork for future math studies.

Professor Gutarts said she first became aware of the need to improve algebra skills when she started teaching calculus on campus. Her students, she indicated, struggled in calculus because they didn’t have a solid understanding of basic algebra concepts.

“Algebra is a foundational subject,” she said. “That means that you cannot do well in calculus if your algebra is shaky. You have to have a strong base in order to build up.”

“We want to be able to figure out what is holding students back,” Gutarts said. 

This two-year project will allow for partnership-building, data collection and analysis, the implementation of comprehensive evaluation measures, and the development of an action plan to employ both conventional and innovative approaches to learning.

For more details on the A^3 project, go to http://aaa.mspnet.org.  

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