SMU’s Caruth Institute for Engineering Education names Leanne Ketterlin-Geller director of K-12 STEM Initiatives

Leanne Ketterlin-GellerSMU’s Caruth Institute for Engineering Education has named Associate Professor Leanne Ketterlin-Geller as its new director of K-12 STEM Initiatives.

A faculty member in education policy and leadership and director of research in mathematics education in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, Ketterlin-Geller will bring a cross-disciplinary focus to her new role with the Institute, housed in the University’s Lyle School of Engineering.

Ketterlin-Geller is an expert in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, and her research focuses on mathematics education through instructional leadership principles and practices. Her new position will include working with the Caruth Institute’s Infinity Project, developing partnerships with area schools, working with Lyle engineering programs geared toward middle and high school students, and working with departments and faculty members to match their engineering expertise to K-12 outreach opportunities.

Ketterlin-Geller will work closely with Delores Etter, executive director of the Caruth Institute and TI Distinguished Chair in Engineering Education, as well as other faculty members from both schools to advance the K-12 STEM initiatives of the Institute.

“Professor Ketterlin-Geller’s extensive experience as a leader in STEM and K-12 education will bring much needed expertise in addressing the critical mission of the Caruth Institute,” Etter said. “Her role within the Simmons School of Education and Human Development will strengthen the necessary collaboration between our two schools.”

“The work that Dr. Ketterlin-Geller will direct is essential to our goal to increase the number and diversity of students with both the enthusiasm and knowledge to pursue the engineering careers that are necessary for the U.S. to compete in a global economy,” said Lyle Dean Marc Christensen. “This appointment demonstrates our commitment to the emerging collaborations between the Simmons School of Education and the Lyle School of Engineering. We look forward to what we can achieve together.”

“Through these Caruth Institute initiatives students will see the power of math in daily life – and engineering is where we really see this at work,” said Ketterlin-Geller. “We hope to develop engaging and interesting programs for both teachers and students that will help all students develop both confidence and competence in STEM fields. This collaboration presents an exciting opportunity to work across disciplines to help foster innovation in K-12 STEM education.”

A former high school science teacher, Ketterlin-Geller has served as principal investigator for federal, state, and locally funded research grants emphasizing the development of instructional materials and formative assessment procedures in mathematics. Much of her research is focused on supporting algebra readiness in elementary and middle school mathematics. She works closely with teachers and administrators to understand the application of measurement and assessment principles for making decisions in school settings. She publishes and delivers presentations on mathematics education, measurement and assessment as well as special education.

Ketterlin-Geller and Simmons School Dean David Chard are part of the national research team working on the George W. Bush Institute’s education initiative, Middle School Matters.

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Research: Learning algebra from Instagram

Stock photo of a student working a math problem on a blackboardCan students learn algebra from Instagram and video games?

SMU teaching researcher Candace Walkington thinks so. And her new study, funded by the National Academy of Education, will test the idea.

“In previous work, I found that students draw upon rich algebraic ways of reasoning when pursuing their out-of-school interests in areas like sports, social networking and video games,” says Walkington, an assistant professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. “Making connections to these topics in algebra class can improve long-term understanding of algebraic ideas.”

The new study asks pre-algebra middle school students in the Dallas Independent School District to author their own algebra stories based on their personal interests. They will describe how linear relationships approximate what they encounter in their everyday lives, such as how they accumulate followers on Instagram or score points in a video game over time, says Walkington, whose research focus is evidence-based effective teaching. About 200 pre-algebra students in eight classrooms at DISD schools are participating in the study.

Based on results from earlier research, Walkington hypothesizes that authoring the stories will elicit students’ interest in the content to be learned by drawing on their knowledge about home and community.

Algebra is a gatekeeper to many careers and to higher-level mathematics, making it critical for students to master, Walkington says – but students struggle to understand the abstract representations.

“Students often can’t see the connection between their world and algebra,” she says. “Exploring ways to connect math to their lives, experiences and knowledge is critical for making it accessible and captivating. That’s especially true when considering students from diverse backgrounds.”

A pilot version of the study begins in spring 2015. The full study starts in fall 2015.

Walkington was awarded the grant as part of the Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship Program of the National Academy of Education. The $55,000 grant supports early career scholars working in critical areas of education research.

Written by Margaret Allen

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog