NSF Awards Candace Walkington and Dallas STEM Walk Partner $2.5 M to Take Math to the Streets with Gamified App

Koshi Dhingra, founder and CEO of talkSTEM, and Candace Walkington, associate professor, SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development

DALLAS (SMU) – To SMU math curriculum researcher Candace Walkington, the best way for students to understand math is to make it part of their lives. She’ll use her recent $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to help students see that math is in the angle of a giraffe’s neck at the Dallas Zoo and in the flutter of the leaves of the cottonwood trees at Twelve Hills Nature Center in Oak Cliff.

These are just two of the stops on Dallas STEM walks, guided walks that illustrate how mathematical principles can be found in one’s surroundings. During the five-year grant, Walkington will partner with Dallas STEM walk nonprofit, talkSTEM, to better understand how educators can support math education outside of school and the role out-of-school experiences like these play in enhancing math education. First up: developing an app that turns a cell phone into an interpretive math tool.

“In this research, rather than having kids see math as symbols that exist on a worksheet or on a computer screen, we want them to see it as something that exists in the world all around them – the trees, the buildings, the artwork and the things they use every day,” says Walkington, associate professor of teaching and learning at SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development. “We want to help them to look at the world through the lens of math.”

Researchers will spend the first year of this grant developing a gamified app called Mathfinder, which is targeted to students in grades four through eight. The app will use augmented reality (AR) to create overlays enabling learners to hold up the camera of their cell phones to see mathematical expressions layered over the real-world objects in their camera feeds, such as the angles and shapes within the architecture of a building. It also will include short videos and directions for STEM walks, Walkington says.

Students also will be able to use Mathfinder to create and share STEM walks in their own neighborhoods, says Elizabeth Stringer, director of academics for SMU’s Guildhall video game design program and a co-investigator on the grant.

“Mathfinder will give feedback to students on the walks they create and provide data to community partners on how much time students spend at each stop,” she says.

STEM walks at nine Dallas learning sites will be featured in the app, including the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Zoo, Frontiers of Flight Museum, the GEMS Camp, the Girl Scouts STEM Center of Excellence, St. Phillips School and Community Center, Twelve Hills Nature Center and Voice of Hope Ministries.

At the Dallas Arboretum, Dustin Miller, director of experience and innovation, says the four-stop Arboretum STEM walk is already popular with visitors.

“At the Arboretum’s Children’s Adventure Garden, the educational intent is very straightforward,” he says. “The main garden’s STEM walk, however, gives people a way to engage with the garden in a way they don’t expect.”

Participating in the research will give the Arboretum an opportunity to collect quantitative data on site, he says. “This research will help us create ways for visitors to experience the gardens in a new and different way.”

For Koshi Dhingra, founder and CEO of talkSTEM, a nonprofit dedicated to the development of future STEM leaders, participating in the research will help her nonprofit understand best practices for creating STEM walks and correcting roadblocks to learning. The creation of the Mathfinder app promises to make STEM walks more engaging and convenient, she says.

Dhingra earned her doctorate in science education and has dedicated her career to STEM education, but has new appreciation for the importance of understanding mathematical concepts as a building block for all sciences.

“When students begin to see that math is all around them, not just in an algebra or calculus textbook, they begin to see themselves as math people,” she says. “They need this competency and confidence to open doors to other STEM fields.”

The NSF grant builds on Walkington’s previous research on math education. An associate professor of teaching and learning at SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, Walkington has earned more than $11 million in math education research grants, and in 2019 received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the U.S. Department of Education. Co-principal investigators for the grant include Dhingra; Anthony Petrosino, Simmons associate dean for research and outreach; Cathy Ringstaff, senior research associate, WestEd; and Elizabeth Stringer, director of academics, Guildhall.

 

About SMU

SMU (Southern Methodist University) is the nationally ranked global research university in the dynamic city of Dallas. SMU’s alumni, faculty and over 12,000 students in eight degree-granting schools demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit as they lead change in their professions, communities and the world.

About Simmons School of Education & Human Development

The Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development at SMU (Southern Methodist University) reflects the University’s vision of serving the most important educational needs of our city, region and nation, graduating students for successful careers in a variety of fields and providing educational opportunities beyond traditional degree programs. Recognized as a unique and transformative leader in education research, practice and policy, the School is committed to rigorous, research-driven programs that promote evidence-based, effective practices in education and human development. 

NCII Honors Alain Mota for Data-based Individualization Work in Project STAIR

Alain Mota, Research in Mathematics Education (RME), SMU Simmons

The National Center for Intensive Intervention (NCII) names Research in Mathematics Education’s Alain Mota this year’s Data-based Individualization Champion for his contributions to Project STAIR, a shared effort with the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Missouri, and SMU. The work supports algebra readiness in middle school for students with learning disabilities and is funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs.

Mota is the STEM development and implementation coordinator for RME. In his Project STAIR role, he has co-facilitated webinars, collected data, and coauthored reports and guides based on the “virtual year” of implementation. Researchers at the University of Missouri nominated him for the recognition.

He was honored recently during NCII’s ten-year anniversary celebration. Congratulations to him!

 

NSF-funded STEM Projects By Simmons Researchers Win Recognition in 2021 STEM For All Video Showcase

Several Simmons researchers and their co-investigators at other universities were recognized for their STEM projects by the 2021 STEM For All Video Showcase, funded by National Science Foundation.

Associate Professor Annie Wilhelm, Beth Adams, STEM evaluation researcher, Tiffini Pruitt Britton, math education researcher (co-principal investigators), and their team received a Presenter’s Choice award for their video, Supporting Equitable Participation and Access.   Led by Principal Investigator Jonee Wilson, assistant professor at North Carolina State, the video shows that aiming for equity involves identifying and outlining specific practices that support and empower students who have historically been underserved specifically in mathematics classrooms. This video also was noted for being one of the projects that registered the most discussion.

Associate Professor Candace Walker and her team received a Facilitators’ Choice award for their video, Stories of Algebra for the Workplace. The project examines how practitioners in STEM and STEM-related careers use algebra to do their jobs and then uses this information to build classroom activities for students enrolled in algebra courses.  The team includes Simmons Ph.D. students Brooke Istas, Jonathan Hunnuicut, and Min Wang, and fellow researchers from UNC-Chapel Hill, Worcester Polytechnic University, and Texas A&M created

The 2021 National Science Foundation (NSF) STEM for All Video Showcase is an annual online event. Each year, it hosts between 100-200 three-minute video presentations from federally funded projects that aim to improve STEM (Science, Math, Engineering, and Mathematics) and computer science education. During the seven days of this online event, Principal Investigators, practitioners, administrators, researchers, policymakers, industry, and the public at large are encouraged to participate.

Gándara Becomes a William T. Grant Scholar and Pursues Five-year Research on Free-college Programs

Denisa Gándara, assistant professor of higher education, is a faculty member in the Dept. of Education Policy and Leadership, Simmons School.

Assistant Profesor of Higher Education Denisa Gándara is one of  five early-career researchers selected by the William T. Grant Foundation to receive $350,000 “to execute rigorous five-year research plans that stretch their skills and knowledge into new disciplines, content areas, or methods.”

Gándara will examine how the administrative burdens of free-college programs, such as eligibility criteria and application processes, impact college enrollment and degree completion for racially or ethnically minoritized students. She aims to provide a more complete understanding of how administrative burdens affect students from different racial or ethnic groups, and, ultimately, to inform program design in ways that help reduce gaps in program take-up and degree attainment.

“By supporting their research agendas and professional development, the William T. Grant Scholars Program seeks to contribute to a bright new generation of scholars who will bring rigorous research to youth policies, programs, and practices in the U.S.,” said the Grant Foundation’s Senior Vice President Vivian Tseng.

Peter Weyand’s Testing of Paralympic Sprinter Blake Leeper on His Use of Long Running Blades Forms Basis of World Athletics’ Ruling

DALLAS (SMU) – A World Athletics panel ruling that Paralympic sprinter Blake Leeper cannot compete using unnaturally long, blade-like prostheses at the Tokyo Olympics was based on research led by renowned SMU human speed expert Peter Weyand.

The governing body for track and field athletes said Monday that Leeper’s disproportionately long prostheses, would give him an “overall competitive advantage”. The ruling follows testing by Weyand and University of Montana professor Matt Bundle on Leeper and his running specific prostheses (RSPs) at SMU Locomotor Performance Laboratory.

Weyand is Glenn Simmons Professor of Applied Physiology and professor of biomechanics in the Department of Applied Physiology & Wellness in SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education & Human Development. He also runs the SMU Locomotor laboratory and has done extensive analysis of many professional sprinters, including Usain Bolt and Oscar Pistorius. Bundle is the director of University of Montana’s Biomechanics Lab.

In their report to the panel, Weyand and Bundle provided a detailed explanation of why, all other things being equal, increased leg length causes increased running speed. Previous Weyand studies have shown there is a close correlation between an athlete’s leg length and ground contact length, such as the distance that a runner’s body travels while their foot is in contact with the ground.

“If the height of Mr. Leeper’s RSPs was reduced by 15 centimeters to his natural anatomical leg length so that Mr. Leeper ran at his Maximum Allowable Standing Height (MASH), then his top speed would be likely to reduce from 11.4 m/s to 9.8 m/s, and his overall 400m time would be likely to increase by approximately eight seconds,” Weyand and Bundle wrote.

Leeper, who was born without legs below his knees, won two Paralympic medals at London 2012 and had appealed with World Athletics to be able to compete in the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Tests done at Southern Methodist University in February and March determined that Leeper’s standing height was measured at 184 centimeters with a leg length of 104 centimeters.

Under the panel’s Maximum Allowable Standing Height (MASH) rule, the 31-year-old American double amputee is not permitted to run at a height greater than 174.4 centimeters.

“The decision means Mr Leeper cannot compete wearing these new RSPs at World Athletics’ major international events… or the Olympic Games,” World Athletics said in a statement on Monday.

 

Placing Cutting-Edge Research into Action is a Priority for Simmons and SMU

On March 29, SMU published an article in FWD DFW, a supplement in The Dallas Morning News, about the  University’s investments in research and data science. The Simmons School was highlighted along with other research areas of the University.

Dean Stephanie L. Knight said, “The Simmons School of Education and Human Development has always been a nontraditional institution. We take great pride in conducting cutting-edge research and then putting the results of that research into action. “Several years ago, we were approached by Toyota about creating a project to benefit the greater Dallas community. Toyota awarded us a $2 million, three-year planning grant to establish a pre-K through eight school in West Dallas focused on a STEM curriculum. Working with Toyota and Dallas ISD, our objective is to prepare students for jobs and college in STEM-related fields. We expect it to be a center for research and professional development that will not only benefit our students locally but also students throughout the country. Toyota also hopes that the school model can be taken to other communities to promote STEM education.”

Read more.

Baker Recognized with Early Career Award for Outstanding Research in Ed Policy

Dominique Baker received the 2021 Early Career Award from the Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP). Baker is an assistant professor of education policy in SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

Each year, AEFP, a non-profit academic and professional organization, gives its Early Career Award to a junior scholar who shows an exemplary early career trajectory and whose research substantially contributes to the field of education finance and policy.

Baker received the award in March at the association’s annual conference. She also received a $1,000 award for the promise and contributions she’s shown to the field.

Baker joined SMU (Southern Methodist University) in 2016. Her research focuses on how education policy affects and shapes the access and success of minoritized students in higher education. She primarily investigates student financial aid, affirmative action and admissions policies, as well as policies that influence the ability to create an inclusive and equitable campus climate.

Her research has been published in a variety of journals, including the American Educational Research Journal, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Journal of Higher Education, Journal of College Student Development, and Teachers College Record. Her work and expertise have also been highlighted by The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Inside Higher Ed, among others.

“I’m delighted to have my work recognized by AEFP,” Baker says. “Education policy has the ability to transform lives, but only if thoughtfully constructed based on evidence that includes the experiences of the folks directly impacted. I look forward to continuing to promote justice by focusing on the ways that policies distribute power and resources.”

 

 

National Academy of Education Inducts Richard Duschl for Contributions in Science Education

Professor Richard Duschl, a leader in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering known for his continuing contributions to science education through research, has been elected a member of the National Academy of Education (NAEd).

Duschl is the Executive Director of SMU Lyle’s Caruth Institute for Engineering Education and also has an appointment in SMU’s Simmons School of Education & Human Development in the Teaching and Learning Department.

 “Induction into a National Academy representing your field of expertise is the pinnacle of achievement in one’s career,” Marc P. Christensen, dean of the Lyle School of Engineering, said. “When we recruited Prof. Duschl to lead the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education, we knew he was one of the most distinguished researchers in the field education. We are so pleased that he has been formally recognized in this way.”

Duschl has been President of NARST, the International Association for Science Education Research. He also served as director of the Division for Research on Learning at the National Science Foundation and chaired the U.S. Department of Education National Resource Center report, “Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8” (National Academies Press, 2007).

Before joining SMU in 2018, his past appointments included the Waterbury Chair at Penn State University, Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University, Chair of Science Education at King’s College London, Vanderbilt University, the University of Pittsburgh, Hunter College-CUNY and the University of Houston. Duschl taught high school earth science in Charles County, Md. and middle school science and math in East Lansing, Mich.

In 2014 Duschl was awarded the NARST Distinguished Career in Research Award. He served for 10 years as the editor of “Science Education,” an international journal of research and scholarship, and was editor of the Teachers College Press book series “Ways of Knowing in Science.”

Duschl is one of 22 people selected on March 11 to join the National Academy of Education.  

Other new members include:

  • Megan Bang, Spencer Foundation/Northwestern University
  • Daryl Chubin, Independent Consultant and Founding Co-Director, Understanding Interventions
  • Colette Daiute, The City University of New York, Graduate Center
  • Kenneth Frank, Michigan State University
  • Jonathan Guryan, Northwestern University
  • Shaun Harper, University of Southern California
  • Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, Temple University
  • Andrew Ho, Harvard University
  • Nancy Hornberger, University of Pennsylvania
  • Tyrone Howard, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Kent McGuire, Hewlett Foundation
  • Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, University of Delaware
  • Richard Milner IV, Vanderbilt University

The NAEd advances high-quality education research and its use in policy and practice. The Academy consists of U.S. members and international associates who are elected on the basis of outstanding scholarships related to education.

 

 

 

 

 

AERA/UCEA Names Ph.D. Candidate Mark Pierce a Clark Scholar

Mark Pierce, a Ph.D. student in Education Policy and Leadership, was named a Clark Scholar by the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA), Divisions A and L of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), and SAGE Publications.

During two days of presentations, emerging educational administration and policy scholars and noted researchers come together for generative discussion and professional growth. The majority of Clark Scholars go on to become professors at major research institutions around the world. This year’s seminar will be held at the beginning of the 2021 AERA virtual meeting.

Pierce’s Ph.D. advisor is Assistant Professor Alexandra Pavlakis.

CORE and Partners Identify Students’ Pandemic Struggles in Report on Citywide Summer Learning Initiative

Through a public-private partnership, Big Thought, its Dallas City of Learning network and Simmons’ Center on Research and Evaluation (CORE) at Southern Methodist University (SMU), published the results of its annual Dallas City of Learning (DCOL) Summer 2020 Report. Dallas City of Learning is a citywide initiative to ensure all students have access to high-quality summer learning programs.

This year, surveys and interviews included new items specific to the COVID-19 pandemic to understand the effect of the pandemic conditions on programs and students. Surveys and interviews were conducted through Dallas City of Learning programs with students, caregivers, and program staff.

Key findings from the report include:
  • Students surveyed rated their current social-emotional skills a 2.22 out of 4, a decrease of nearly one full point from their pre-COVID ratings. This indicates that the average student does not agree with the positive statements about their feelings since school closed in March 2020.
  • 78 percent of students agree/strongly agree that they learn better when they are at school with their teachers.
  • 73 percent of students agree/strongly agree that they can’t wait to go back to school.
  • 44 percent of students agree/strongly agree that coronavirus makes them feel scared.

During the summer of 2020, Dallas City of Learning partners provided 1,049 virtual and in-person program opportunities resulting in 1,480,961 cumulative hours of programming. Sixty-six percent of program leads reported that they made significant alterations to their programming for summer 2020, and 68 percent said that they are likely to continue with the adaptations they have made well after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

The findings from the Dallas City of Learning Summer 2020 report can be reviewed in detail at https://dallascityoflearning.org/info/summer-2020-insights/.

For news coverage from The Dallas Morning News, read more.