Thursday, April 25, 2013

Two Worlds Collide: Mathematics and Mathematics Education

by Angie Hodge

Project NExT (New Experiences for Teachers) is a professional development program for new or recent Ph.D.s in the mathematical sciences. It addresses all aspects of an academic career including teaching, research, and service. It also provides the project fellows with a network of peers and mentors.

New fellows and the previous year’s fellows come together at an ice cream social every year at MAA MathFest. At this point, the new fellows have spent a week in sessions learning about ways to teach math and ways to conquer the obstacles they may face as new mathematics/mathematics education professors. The ice cream social is the end of the initial training and the beginning of their connecting into a social network of NExTers, or Dots, as some people call them. (We’ll explain what the heck a Dot is in a later post.)

At the social in August 2008, I was there as an “experienced new fellow” to greet the new fellows who had just finished this intense week of training. I met Dana at this ice cream social.

It wasn’t math that originally brought us together as colleagues. Instead, it was mutual friends, a love of exercise, and our chatty nature. Dana and I spent several hours bonding through food, working out, and attending a session or two.
Dana and Angie at the start of a 50K trail ultra marathon in Flagstaff, AZ
Once again, Project NExT succeeded in its “secret plot” to bring people together to do lots of cool things. One result was an invitation to the Legacy of R. L. Moore Conference each year, and it was there that we began to talk about math education. (We highly recommend going!!!) We will keep the details to a minimum until later posts, but the short version is that this conference inspired transformation in our teaching. This is where math and math education collided. Our common interest in inquiry-based learning (IBL), together with our diverse perspectives, inspired several collaborative projects centered on the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL).

In addition to a handful of small research projects, we have also given several joint talks and organized workshops and contributed paper sessions. Because of our active involvement in the IBL community, we were recently designated as Special Projects Coordinators for the Academy of Inquiry-Based Learning. Our duties include spreading the word about IBL and continuing to organize workshops and conferences. We are both extremely passionate about IBL and we’re looking forward to playing an active role in inspiring others to take a more student-centered approach to teaching.

Coming Up Next

What is inquiry-based learning (IBL)? Why use IBL? How can you incorporate more IBL into the classes that you teach? In the next few posts, we will address all of these questions, as well as discuss a few different examples of what an IBL classroom might look like in practice.

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