Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Welcome to Math Ed Matters

by Dana Ernst and Angie Hodge

Greetings! Thanks for stopping by to read our first blog post on Math Ed Matters

What’s this blog all about?


Math Ed Matters is a (roughly) monthly column sponsored by the Mathematical Association of America authored by Dana Ernst and Angie Hodge. Dana is a mathematician with interests in mathematics education and Angie is a mathematics education specialist. The column will explore topics and current events related to undergraduate mathematics education. Posts will aim to inspire, provoke deep thought, and provide ideas for the mathematics—and mathematics education—classroom. The coauthors' interest in and engagement with inquiry-based learning (IBL) will color the column's content.

Thanks to the Mathematical Association of America for giving us the opportunity to share our musings with you.

About the authors


Dana Ernst


My name is Dana Ernst, and I am an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Northern Arizona University (NAU) in Flagstaff, AZ. I am also a 2008 Fellow of Project NExT, which is a professional development program of the MAA for new or recent Ph.D.s in the mathematical sciences.

I completed my B.S. in mathematics at George Mason University and then went on to complete my M.S. at NAU in 2000. After spending a year as an instructor at NAU, I worked for two years as a full-time member of the math faculty at Front Range Community College in Boulder and Longmont, CO. In August 2003, I returned to graduate school and started working on my Ph.D. at University of Colorado at Boulder. Under the guidance of Richard M. Green, I finished my Ph.D. in the summer of 2008.

After completing my Ph.D., I spent four years as an assistant professor at Plymouth State University (PSU). While at PSU, I was twice named the Plymouth State University Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, an honor determined by the mathematics majors. Moreover, during my last semester at PSU, I was selected as the university’s sole nominee for the New Hampshire Excellence in Education Award, which is a statewide teaching award. In August of 2012, I returned to NAU (yay, my dream job!) and started working as an assistant professor.

My primary research interests are in the interplay between combinatorics and algebraic structures. More specifically, I study the combinatorics of Coxeter groups and their associated Hecke algebras, Kazhdan-Lusztig theory, (generalized) Temperley-Lieb algebras, diagram algebras, and heaps of pieces. By employing combinatorial tools such as diagram algebras and heaps of pieces, it is possible to gain insight into algebraic structures associated with Coxeter groups, and, conversely, the corresponding structure theory can often lead to surprising combinatorial results. The combinatorial nature of my research naturally lends itself to collaborations with undergraduate students, and my goal is to incorporate undergraduates into my research as much as possible. See my scholarship page for more information. 

I am also passionate about mathematics education. In particular, I am interested in inquiry-based learning (IBL) and the Moore method for teaching mathematics. This educational paradigm has transformed my teaching. I am currently a Special Projects Coordinator for the Academy of Inquiry-Based Learning and a mentor for several new IBL practitioners. Moreover, I give talks and organize workshops on the benefits of IBL as well as the nuts and bolts of how to implement this approach in the mathematics classroom. 

I am interested in using technology to enhance the teaching and learning of mathematics. Specifically, I choose free and open-source software and technologies when they are available. For example, I have been incorporating Sage and GeoGebra into my teaching. Sage is a free, open-source mathematics software system licensed under the GPL. It combines the power of many existing open-source packages into a common Python-based interface. For examples of a few of the cool things you can do with Sage, check out this page. According to their webpage, GeoGebra is free and multi-platform dynamic mathematics software for all levels of education that joins geometry, algebra, tables, graphing, statistics, and calculus in one easy-to-use package. There are tons of awesome GeoGebra examples located here.

In addition to using free and open-source software, I am inspired by the recent open-source textbook movement and I strongly believe that educators should choose free, open-source, or low-cost textbooks when possible. For a selection of free and/or open-source textbooks, see my list located here. Also, take a peek at Rob Beezer’s selection on this page.

I also maintain a personal blog, which is part of the Booles' Rings network of academic home pages/blogs.  Moreover, I am active on Google+ and post regularly about mathematics, teaching, and technology. You can find my G+ profile here. In addition, I occasionally post about my cycling, trailing running, and rock climbing adventures on my Elevation Gain blog. Lastly, I am a husband and a father of two incredible sons. Oh, I enjoy drinking copious amounts of coffee, too.


Angie Hodge


Hi all! I am an assistant (soon to be associate) professor of mathematics and the Haddix Community Chair of Mathematics Education at the University of Nebraska Omaha. I earned my Ph.D. from Purdue in mathematics education in 2007 and my M.S. in mathematics also from Purdue University in 2004. I am also a 2007 Fellow of Project NExT. I have been fortunate to find a career path that has allowed me to combine my mathematics education research with my passion for teaching mathematics courses.

In a nutshell, I teach mathematics courses with one of my main goals being to get people excited about mathematics (and of course help them learn mathematics deeply). Yes, excited about mathematics! Although I started out as a very traditional mathematics instructor, I now try all sorts of different things in my classroom from simple group work to inquiry-based learning with very little lecture. In this blog, I will tell you what I have learned from my adventures in teaching everything from traditional mathematics courses to summer workshops for teachers. I will even tell you how and why I use a whistle in my calculus courses.


In addition, I am involved in a variety of mathematics service work related to inquiry-based learning with a special focus on developing a love of mathematics in others. This includes serving as a Special Projects Coordinator for the Academy of Inquiry-Based Learning, Omaha Area Math Teachers’ Circle co-leader, co-leader of a STEM summer camp for at-risk girls (EUREKA!), and the co-advisor for the University of Nebraska Omaha’s Math Club. 

In this blog, I will share my journey: successes and flops. My lens is that of a mathematics educator who believes in strong content knowledge, hands-on/minds-on learning, and who strongly believes that collaboration is essential between those who specialize in mathematics and those who specialize in education. 

The “human side” of my life also colors the lens through which I view challenges in the classroom. Calling myself a “Mathlete,” I find great pleasure in endurance events such as running ultra marathons. On the softer side, I also enjoy watching college football and basketball, trying new foods, and traveling.


Coming Up NExT


So, how in the world did two people with such different backgrounds meet and what is their academic connection? This question and more will be answered in the next blog, “Two Worlds Collide: Mathematics and Mathematics Education.”

Other future posts


Here’s a preview of some of our potential upcoming blog posts.

  • History and impact of Project NExT
  •  Inquiry-Based Learning: What, Why, and How?
  • How and why did Angie and Dana start implementing an IBL approach?
  • What's the Buzz? (Calculus Bee)
  • A recap of the 16th Annual Legacy of R. L. Moore Conference (June 13-15, 2013 in Austin, TX)
  • A recap of MathFest 2013 (July 31-August 3, 2013 in Hartford, CT)
  • Pivotal Moments: How did Dana and Angie get to where they are now?

1 comment:

Kaieza Damien said...

Hi there! great post. Thanks for sharing a very interesting and informative content, it is a big help to me and to others as well, keep it up!
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