SMU, Faculty, School of Education, Assistant Professor

Dr. Candace Walkington

Dr. Candace WalkingtonAssistant ProfessorDr. Candace Walkington is an Assistant Professor in Teaching and Learning , specializing in mathematics education.  She holds a B.S. and M.S. in Mathematics from Texas A&M University, and she is a former NSF-GK12 Fellow and college mathematics professor.  Dr. Walkington received her Ph.D. in Mathematics Education from University of Texas at Austin.  She was also an IES Postdoctoral Fellow in Mathematical Thinking, Learning, and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dr. Walkington’s research examines how abstract mathematical ideas can become connected to students’ concrete, everyday experiences such that they become more understandable. She conducts research on “personalizing” mathematics instruction to students’ out of-school interests in areas like sports, music, shopping, and video games.  She also examines ways to connect mathematical practices with physical motions including gestures.  Her work draws upon theories of situated and embodied cognition, and she is an active member of the learning sciences community.  Her research uses both qualitative methods like discourse and gesture analysis, and quantitative methods like hierarchical linear modeling and educational data mining.

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Dr. Walkington working with SMU students

Recently Dr. Walkington’s research was covered by the National Public Radio Affiliate “Mindshift” – check it out here!  http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/12/to-learn-algebra-the-not-so-secret-way-to-students-hearts/

Get to know Dr. Walkington a little bit better:

Q:  What’s one of your favorite teaching experiences?

A:  I used to teach at a community college where I got a diverse array of students wanting to pursue elementary school teaching. I always remember the boundless creativity and enthusiasm of these students. For one class project, they had to create an introductory lesson to engage elementary students in learning about a particular math topic. Many of my students dressed up in costumes and put on little skits about the real world applications of their math topics, or made funny videos about the usefulness and relevance of their math concepts. This related to research of mine we’d discussed on “personalized” learning. I think that somewhere along the way many teachers lose this energy, so I try to model it every day in my classes with the activities and approaches I use.

Q:  What motivates you to teach?

A:  What keeps teaching fresh and exciting for me is dreaming up new tasks and activities to give my students, or continuing to refine my old activities. A well-designed math activity can be fun and intriguing to solve, while also revealing in elegant and clever ways the important math concepts that my students need to learn. Designing these lessons is as much of an art as it is a science, and I’m always trying to come up with a great new idea about how to teach a concept my students struggle with.

Q:  What is challenging within the classroom?

A:  The thing that I struggle most with in my college classroom is likely the biggest challenge that my teachers face themselves –  administering formal math assessments. When using a guided discovery approach to teaching, traditional math tests are not always well-matched to what we do in class and the learning and outcomes that we value. As a result, they can be stressful and demoralizing for my students, and disrupt us from pursuing things in class that I perceive as more important than test preparation. However, formal assessments are a key element of the educational system – pre-service and in-services teachers take exams to gain certifications. I know that I have to be a role model for how my teachers themselves should balance reformed teaching approaches and standardized assessments in their own classrooms.

Q:  How did you choose your focus on math?

I didn’t always like math when I was younger, but I had great math teachers in high school, and began to really enjoy solving problems and figuring out patterns. When I started college, majoring in math just made sense for me. I always wanted to be in an applied field, where the mathematics had relevance to things going on in the world and I could feel like my work was making a difference in people’s lives. After focusing on statistics as an undergraduate and the probabilistic underpinnings of finance as a graduate student, I finally settled on mathematics education.

Q:  What’s your favorite place to eat in Dallas?

Great question! I love Rise No. 1 and Fireside Pies most, but our city has so many great restaurants.

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