Wilhelm’s Opinion Piece Looks at Math Loss as a Teaching Opportunity

Associate Professor Anne Garrison Wilhelm offers new possibilities to deal with math learning losses during the pandemic.

In an opinion piece published by InsideSources.com, she believes now is the time to redress traditional ways of engaging students in math.

“Even before COVID-19, our mathematics education system was not serving most kids,” she says. “Some just assumed they didn’t “get” math; others never really understood the mathematics they were taught in school, and this manifested when they had to enroll in college remedial math courses.”

For her ideas to create new strategies and make math a part of everyday life, read her piece here. Wilhelm teaches math education and conducts research in Simmons’ Department of Teaching and Learning.

Eight New Faculty Members Join Simmons

The Simmons School welcomes new faculty members to the Departments of Teaching &  Learning, and Applied Physiology and Wellness.

Joining Teaching & Learning are

In Applied Physiology and Wellness, they are

Simmons looks forward to their contributions and ideas.

Ketterlin Geller and Lyle Colleagues Discuss NSF Research on Gaming for Teaching STEM and Computing

Simmons Professor Leanne Ketterlin Geller and co-principal investigators at the Lyle School, Associate Professor Eric Larson, and Assistant Professor Corey Clark, talk about the impetus behind their $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant allowing them to develop a videogame to teach computational thinking. Computational thinking should begin in Pre-K and followed through Grade 12, but as Ketterlin Geller notes getting students engaged in math and science is difficult.

In a recent article featured in Lyle Now, they discuss how their inspiration to use a Minecraft-based game for teaching came from the literacy game Simmons, Guildhall, and Literacy for Texas collaborated on for the Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy X-Prize competition. The game won the grand prize, and Clark says, “We figured if educational gaming can help teach literacy concepts, why not use it to teach math, science and computational thinking by converting it into Minecraft?” Clark, also deputy director of research at SMU Guildhall, is an education gaming expert who constructed the X-Prize game.

SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development Professor and Texas Instruments Endowed Chair in Education Leanne Ketterlin Geller

Ketterlin Geller says the research team is speaking to local school districts about potential collaborations. “Having student and teacher voices in the ultimate design and dissemination of the project will help with its implementation, longevity, and sustainability.”

Their feedback is essential because the team is striving for key education outcomes such as engaging in gameplay; changes in students’ interest, attitudes, beliefs and self-efficacy in STEM+C; involvement in collaborative, open-ended solutions; and achievement in related computing and mathematics concepts. Research for this project began last fall and continues through 2022.

Virtual Community Meeting for West Dallas STEM School Set for June 8, 2020

You are invited to attend a virtual community meeting to discuss plans for the new West Dallas STEM School at Pinkston. The meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, June 8, 2020, online at www.dallasisd.org/Bond2015Meetings. Dallas Independent School District representatives will be in attendance to make a presentation and answer questions about the project. Spanish translation will be available. Dallas ISD’s planning for the school has been done in partnership with Toyota USA Foundation, SMU Simmons, and the West Dallas Community.

STEM Videos by Simmons Faculty Receive Awards from NSF’s Voting Public

Faculty members Leanne Ketterlin Geller, Ph.D. (Education Policy and Leadership), and Candace Walkington, Ph.D. (Teaching & Learning), created winning videos about their STEM research for a National Science Foundation showcase competition, May 5-12. A voting public selected the top videos.

Professor Ketterlin Geller and her team, Research in Mathematics Education, received the Public Choice award, and  Associate Professor Candace Walkington and her co-researchers received the  Facilitators’ Choice award.

Ketterlin Geller’s video “Developing STEM Access in Students K-2 through MMaRS” illustrates research on two early predictors of mathematics success in K-2 students: numerical relational reasoning and spatial reasoning. Researchers describe what underlies the project and an elementary school principal articulates the importance of an assessment to identify student thinking and guide teacher instruction. View video here:


Walkington’s presentation, “The Hidden Village: Mathematical Reasoning Through Movement,” looks at a motion capture Kinect video game for learning high school geometry that was initially developed through a collaboration between the Simmons School of Education and Human Development at SMU, the Guildhall at SMU, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The project was funded by The Institute of Educational Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education, in an award given to the University of Wisconsin. View video here:




Dallas ISD Names Master Principal Marion Jackson to Lead New STEM School, Opening in Collaboration with Simmons, Toyota USA Foundation, and West Dallas Community

Marion Jackson

Dallas Independent School District (Dallas ISD) master principal Marion Jackson has been named to lead the West Dallas STEM School – an educational collaboration of the district, Toyota USA Foundation, Southern Methodist University (SMU) and the West Dallas community.

Known for her innovative and transformative leadership, Jackson brings a depth of knowledge in STEM instruction to the post. Most notably, she has a track record of closing student performance gaps and increasing academic achievement in reading, math and science as measured by Texas Education Agency standards. Evidence of her forward-thinking approach includes her co-development of a best practice model in mathematics instruction implemented in the Bryan Adams feeder pattern. The model led to improvements in student math performance across several metrics.

For nearly 15 years, Jackson has served the families of Dallas ISD as a teacher, assistant principal and principal. Much of that time was spent supporting students and leading instruction as campus administrator at Martha Turner Reilly Elementary School.

“The positive experiences I’ve received in Dallas ISD and the communities we get to connect with each day are, in part, what makes this opportunity special,” said Jackson. “As we build a foundation for our students to explore all elements of STEM, I have no doubt that with the support of Toyota USA Foundation, SMU and the West Dallas community, our one-of-a-kind campus will fuel the next generation of STEM leaders.”

Experts continue to forecast a robust future demand for workers skilled in science, technology, engineering and math. The STEM school’s unique public-private partnership aims to inspire and prepare students for the next generation of STEM jobs through a project-based and business-aligned curriculum.

In 2018, Toyota USA Foundation granted $2 million to SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development to support curriculum development, advise on state-of-the-art educational practices, provide teacher professional development, coordinate partnerships with community nonprofits, and monitor and evaluate the program. The future school will be operated and staffed by the Dallas ISD, whose Office of Transformation and Innovation will co-facilitate the design of the school in collaboration with School Leadership.

The collaboration will also bring together nonprofits, including groups already working with Dallas ISD through the SMU Simmons School program, The School Zone, and partners of Toyota Motor North America. Together, the team will address community issues such as literacy, nutrition, transportation and after-school care – each vital to creating successful outcomes for students and families.

Jackson holds several certifications, including a standard Texas School Principal credential and is certified in special education in grades first to 12. She is a graduate of the University of Louisiana at Monroe, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. She also holds a master’s degree in instructional leadership from Concordia University Texas. Jackson will officially assume the new role June 1 upon completion of the current school year. The STEM school will begin a phased opening in fall 2021.

Spanish version below

Dallas ISD nombra a educadora con amplia experiencia como directora de escuela STEM en oeste de Dallas

La escuela es una colaboración entre la Fundación Toyota USA, SMU y la comunidad del oeste de Dallas; la apertura gradual comenzará en otoño de 2021

Dallas – Marion Jackson, integrante del grupo de directores destacados del Distrito Escolar Independiente de Dallas (Dallas ISD), ha sido nombrada directora de la escuela STEM en el oeste de Dallas — una colaboración entre el distrito, la Fundación Toyota USA, Southern Methodist University (SMU) y la comunidad del oeste de Dallas.

Conocida por su liderazgo innovador y transformador, Jackson brindará su vasto conocimiento sobre la enseñanza STEM a la nueva escuela. En particular, tiene un historial de reducir las brechas en el desempeño de los estudiantes, así como mejorar el aprovechamiento académico en lectura, matemáticas y ciencias, de acuerdo con los estándares de la Agencia de Educación de Texas. Una evidencia de su enfoque innovador es su colaboración en el desarrollo de un modelo de mejores prácticas en la enseñanza de matemáticas implementado en la zona escolar de la preparatoria Bryan Adams. Este modelo dio lugar a mejoras en el desempeño estudiantil en matemáticas en diversas métricas.

Por casi 15 años, Jackson ha servido a las familias de Dallas ISD como maestra, subdirectora y directora. Dedicó una gran parte de ese tiempo a apoyar a sus estudiantes y dirigir la enseñanza como administradora escolar en Martha Turner Reilly Elementary School.

“Las experiencias positivas que he vivido en Dallas ISD y las comunidades con las que estamos en contacto todos los días son parte de lo que hace tan especial esta oportunidad”, dijo Jackson. “Conforme construimos la base para que los estudiantes exploren los elementos de STEM, no tengo duda de que con el apoyo de la Fundación Toyota USA, SMU y la comunidad del oeste de Dallas, nuestra singular escuela formará a la siguiente generación de líderes en STEM”.

Los expertos continúan anticipando una fuerte demanda de profesionales capacitados en ciencias, tecnología, ingeniería y matemáticas. La colaboración público-privada de la escuela STEM busca inspirar y preparar a los estudiantes para la siguiente generación de empleos STEM a través de un plan de estudios basado en proyectos y que se adapta a la industria.

En 2018, la Fundación Toyota USA concedió $2 millones a la Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development de SMU para apoyar el desarrollo del currículo, asesorar sobre las últimas prácticas educativas, ofrecer capacitación profesional de maestros, coordinar asociaciones con organizaciones comunitarias sin fines de lucro y supervisar y evaluar el programa. La escuela la operará el personal de Dallas ISD, cuya Oficina de Transformación e Innovación colaborará con Liderazgo Escolar para el diseño de la escuela.

La colaboración también involucrará a organizaciones sin fines de lucro, incluyendo a grupos que actualmente colaboran con Dallas ISD a través del programa de la Simmons School of Education and Human Development de SMU, The School Zone y socios como Toyota Motor North America. El equipo tratará temas de la comunidad como la alfabetización, nutrición, transporte y cuidado infantil después de clases—todos vitales para generar resultados positivos para los alumnos y sus familias.

Jackson cuenta con varias certificaciones, incluyendo las credenciales de Texas School Principal y está certificada en educación especial de 1º a 12º grado. Es egresada de la Universidad de Louisiana en Monroe, donde obtuvo la licenciatura de periodismo de difusión. También cuenta con una maestría en liderazgo educativo por la Concordia University Texas. Jackson asumirá su puesto de manera oficial el próximo 1 de junio, una vez se complete el año escolar en curso. La escuela STEM comenzará su apertura gradual en el otoño de 2021.



Barbie Bungee Jumping? Walkington Takes Math Activities for Home to New Heights

Shelter-in-place requirements create new challenges for math learning – for students, parents and teachers working remotely. To help families make math fun and relevant to these times of handwashing, neighborhood walks and togetherness, SMU math education professor Candace Walkington suggests Soap Bubble Magic, STEMWalks and Barbie Bungee Jumping.

Walkington, an associate professor of math in SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, specializes in making math relative and interesting to students. Her research includes engaging students in math by connecting their math skills to careers and outside-of-school interests.

“These activities for kids grades 3-8 are especially educational because the fun truly comes from the math itself being interesting and engaging,” says Walkington. “They also introduce math into the things we’re doing every day as we stay at home and practice social distancing.”

Here are Walkington’s favorites, including links that provided inspiration for her suggestions:

Geopanes: The Mathematics of Soap Bubbles

Since you’re washing your hands all the time anyways, here is another good way to connect with soap and water, masquerading as a fun math activity.


  • toothpicks
  • small objects that can link toothpicks together, such as raisins, marshmallows or clay balls
  • a mixing bowl filled with water and a few squirts of dishwashing liquid

Directions: Use the toothpicks and connectors like raisins to build polyhedrons, which are  three-dimensional geometric solids such as pyramids, prisms and cubes. Once they are built, dip your shapes into the soapy water – and see how the soapy water reveals complex surfaces or “geopanes.”

“If you only try one activity on this list, this one would be my recommendation. What happens when these are dipped into the soapy water is AMAZING! You can also integrate science into this activity by talking about surface tension in water and why the geopanes form as they do,” Walkington says.

Source: AIMS Education Foundation



Create a Math Walk

Here’s a new angle for your “escape the house” neighborhood walk. The walkSTEM® initiative launched by the non-profit talkSTEM, encourages families to go on virtual math walks via video, and create their own math walks in their backyard or their neighborhood.

Supplies: Walking shoes and a measurement instrument (optional)

Directions: Watch a few math walk videos on the talkSTEM YouTube channel as your first step –in particular ones where kids are acting as docents, like this one.

Create your own neighborhood walkSTEM tour. Observe everyday things – trees, roofs, street lights – and come up with questions about your observations. Why are roofs slanted? How tall are street lights? Select one question to explore in depth.

“Make a video of your walkSTEM tour and submit it to the talkSTEM Youtube channel to inspire other families,” Walkington suggests.

Source: talkSTEM



Barbie Bungee Jump

Anytime is a good time for a Barbie bungee jump, but this activity also allows cooped-up kids to work off steam. The objective is to guess how many rubber bands can be combined to create a “bungee cord” that drops Barbie as close to the ground as possible


  • A Barbie doll, GI Joe doll, or other similarly-sized, reasonably-heavy doll (stuffed animals are too light)
  • 15-30 same-sized rubber bands
  • ruler, meterstick or yardstick.

Directions: First, tape a large piece of paper to the wall, with a high point of five or six feet from the floor clearly marked as the Barbie dropping point. Barbie will need to be dropped from this height, so a parent or older brother or sister should help. String the rubber bands together to make a bungee cord for Barbie and attach to her ankles.

Test how far Barbie falls with two rubber bands, three rubber bands, four rubber bands, etc., then estimate just the right number of rubber bands for Barbie to jump, almost touch the ground, then spring back unharmed.

Keep trying until you find the perfect number of rubber bands for the best jump.

“There is nothing more satisfying than choosing the exact right number of rubber bands, and seeing the doll just barely kiss the ground as she bungee jumps, and then bounces back up to safety,” Walkington says.


Source: NCTM Illuminations




Equipping Nonprofits to Provide Services for the West Dallas STEM School

Clarissa Garcia and Jill Collum from Mercy Street (l. to r.) chat with Shellie Ross and Rachel Kramer from Wesley-Rankin Community Center.

A key feature of the West Dallas STEM School is a strategic collaboration with the nonprofit sector to provide embedded or nearby social services that will directly support PreK-8 students, families, school staff, and the broader community.

A portion of the $2 million planning grant made to SMU by Toyota has been sub-granted to convene three cohorts of nonprofits to increase their learning and readiness capacity for possible participation in the school. A pilot cohort of six nonprofits – AVANCE North Texas, Brother Bill’s Helping Hand, Dallas Afterschool, Mercy Street, The Concilio, and Wesley-Rankin Community Center – met for five months during the 2019 spring semester to engage in planning and capacity building work.

The topics they tackled included learning the history of West Dallas for current context, understanding community cultural wealth, identifying opportunities for continuous improvement, building a collaborative culture, and exploring to school-community partnerships.

Cohort II begins in March 2020 and will include nine sessions with up to 12 participating nonprofit organizations. “The first cohort served as a pilot, providing learning opportunities for nonprofit participants and those of us planning the sessions,” said Erin O. Crosby, a co-lead for the Community Development Design Team representing SMU, DISD, and Toyota. “Having three years to plan a school is a gift, especially when co-designing features like wraparound services to benefit everyone in the school as well as the broader community. We want the nonprofits to feel ready and be ready to succeed in this new and innovative space on day one.”


West Dallas STEM School Partnership Connects with Gabe Allen Elementary

In the spring of 2019, the West Dallas STEM School partnership began collaborating with Gabe Allen Elementary School’s principal Sheila Ortiz Espinell to support teacher learning.

Members of the professional learning design team, led by SMU Simmons professor Annie Wilhelm, Ph.D., and Dallas ISD’s Shannon Terry, Ph.D., met with Ms. Ortiz and her leadership team to learn more about their school and their vision for where the school was headed.

Similar meetings were held with the faculty to determine what should be included in professional learning, and the result was to focus on writing and project-based learning for science classes.

Assistant Professor Amy Gillespie Rouse at SMU Simmons started monthly professional development sessions for third to fifth-grade teachers on writing-to-learn. Also, SMU Research Assistant Professor Jeanna Wieselmann laid the foundation for project-based learning in science. The project-based unit is developed with fifth-grade science teachers who will be the first to implement it in mid-February. The intent is for the other grade levels also to have the opportunity to experience project-based learning this year.

The partnership will continue into the 2021-22 school year, and respond to the emerging needs of the campus community.

Walkington and Howell Look at Support Systems in Community Colleges for Students Under-Prepared in Math

Simmons Teaching and Learning’s Candace Walkington teaches a class in Harold Clark Simmons Hall on the SMU Campus.

Simmons Associate Professor Candace Walkington and North Central Texas College’s Elizabeth Howell collaborated on research that examines the support systems in community colleges for students who are under-prepared in math when they enrolled. Their article is published in the Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice.

The study looks at two 5-year longitudinal data sets of community college students to explore factors associated with successful outcomes in developmental mathematics. Additional linear regression models examine the time required to complete developmental coursework. Tutoring has a strong association with positive student outcomes, as do full-time enrollment and developmental mathematics coursework grades. Implications for developmental mathematics programs in community college settings are discussed.