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. 

Upcoming West Dallas STEM School Uses Virtual Space to Break Ground

As classes in the Dallas Independent School District conclude June 18, a new school in West Dallas gets ready to start. The Pre-K to 8 STEM School breaks ground virtually to celebrate its opening in mid-August.

In this video, the convener is Principal Marion Jackson, who highlights what students and their families can expect. The first group of students to study at the school will be seventh and eighth-graders.

The West Dallas STEM School, a Dallas ISD Transformation and Innovation School, is the result of more than three years of collaboration between the District, the Toyota USA Foundation, SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, and the West Dallas community.

 

 

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.

New West Dallas PreK-8 STEM School To Open In August

West Dallas parents and students talk about how they envision the new STEM School.

DALLAS (SMU) May, 4, 2021 – In West Dallas a new Pre K-8 STEM school is set to open this August beginning with students in the 7th and 8th grades.  The West Dallas STEM School, a Dallas Independent School District Transformation and Innovation School, is the result of more than three years of collaboration between the District, the Toyota USA Foundation, SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development and the West Dallas community.

“We strongly believe that all children should have equal access to opportunities and a pathway to great careers,” said Sean Suggs, director, Toyota USA Foundation and group vice president, Toyota Social Innovation. “Together with the community, we have worked on everything from building design, teacher development, curriculum and before and after school care.  This extends also to addressing broader community needs, including access to transportation.”

To support the school as it opens and its new Master Principal Marion Jackson, the Toyota USA Foundation approved an additional grant of $3 million to SMU, adding to the $2 million grant the foundation awarded in September 2018.  This is in addition to Toyota’s teacher and community grants, West Dallas scholarship and mentorship programs, and the recently launched transportation circulator in the area.

“We know that there many related issues – from access to healthy food to before and after school care – that all tie into academic success. This is something we need to collectively address, and we encourage additional partners to come alongside the effort,” added Suggs.

To further support the school, business leader Carter Creech, an SMU alumnus with a passion for education philanthropy, has pledged an additional $3.5 million, following his initial gift of $1.5 million to the project.  Creech’s contribution will go toward a new middle school career and college readiness pilot program at the school, as well as efforts to replicate the West Dallas STEM school.

“As we move from planning to implementation, we have deepened our commitment to the school, to the model, and to each other,” said Simmons School Dean Stephanie Knight. “SMU is grateful for this unique partnership, and thanks both the Toyota Foundation USA and Carter Creech for continued investment in our community’s children – the problem solvers of the future.”

The West Dallas STEM School Program at Pinkston

The West Dallas STEM School Program at Pinkston is a neighborhood school that will begin by serving the 7th and 8th grade.  PreK – 1st grade is scheduled to begin enrollment in 2023.

The school brings together four integral components to create an innovative PK – 8 school model:

  • A project-based, industry-informed STEM curriculum
  • Professional development for educators
  • “Wraparound” services delivered directly to the students by community nonprofit organizations to help with issues such as literacy, nutrition, transportation and after-school care
  • Evaluation and measurement to support a model of continuous improvement

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for the students and community of West Dallas,” principal Jackson said. “This partnership has afforded us the space to realize what’s possible when we focus our collective efforts on changing how we meet the needs of our students and families. We are committed to equipping our students to succeed in an evolving global society.”

SMU’s Simmons School is providing faculty expertise to develop project-based learning, which means that students will learn by working in groups to solve open-ended problems using design, engineering, math, science and technology. The approach prepares students to take on new challenges as they occur – and to understand how to build new knowledge on existing concepts.  The Simmons School will provide professional development for teachers, and Simmons researchers will monitor and evaluate the program as it evolves, developing a model to create other STEM-focused schools.

Partnering with the West Dallas Community  

Since the onset, the West Dallas community has been engaged in the creation of the school, advising on everything from design to input on services offered at the school.

Parents, such as José Alas, who sits on the school’s advisory council, have been engaged from the beginning. “This school really will help bridge the gap in opportunities when it comes to education,” he says. “Every child has the potential to do great things if we can provide them what they need, and I think the school is going to do just that. We always juggle where to send our children and now we are going to have one of the best schools in our backyard.”

Organizations such as West Dallas One and the West Dallas Community Coalition also have been active in the partnership, participating in the school’s design teams and focus groups with residents. Additionally, six long-established West Dallas nonprofit groups have been working on plans to expand their services within the school to help students and their families gain quick access to resources they need.

For more information, please visit https://www.dallasisd.org/westdallasstem

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Ph.D. Student Robyn Pinilla to Participate in 2021 Clinton Global Initiative University

Robyn Pinilla, a Simmons doctoral student working in early mathematics, has been selected to join the  Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) 2021.

This program involves a commitment to action to address a specific challenge with a defined course of action and detailed objectives.

Pinilla will be working on a process to develop community-based STEM programming for young children, their families, and teachers in Dallas areas of need.

SMU provides funding to its selected students for getting their projects started and attending the annual CGI U meeting, which will be held at Howard University March 23-26. Graduation is in November.

“This exciting opportunity to work with the Clinton Foundation to collaborate with scholars and entrepreneurs from around the world reinforces the leadership and partnership ideals of SMU’s commitment to world-changing transformation,” she says.

 

 

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.