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EHE Office of Research
December 27, 2015

In October of this year, the National Science Foundation awarded Arnulfo Pérez (Teaching and Learning) and his colleagues a $1.2M STEM+ Computing grant to fund a study entitled “Assessing the Impact of Computer Modeling and Programming in Secondary Algebra.” This initiative combines the pedagogical content knowledge of researchers in STEM education and the computational prowess of computer scientists to infuse programming and computer modeling into an algebra unit on linear functions. The project draws on the expertise of co-PIs Kathy Malone (Teaching and Learning) and Christopher Stewart (Computer Science). It will create opportunities for research experience for current STEM Education PhD students as well as lead to the recruitment of additional graduate students.

Through a collaborative partnership with South-Western City School District, the study will examine the impact of modeling and computer programming opportunities on students’ understanding of linear functions and their engagement in practices associated with success in STEM and computer science. The study will leverage computational thinking for 21st-century learning by integrating modeling and computer programming into a project-based exploration of linear functions using engineering applications.

During a summer institute, participating high school algebra teachers will collaborate in developing an engineering project-based learning (PBL) unit on linear functions. The professional development experiences will follow a participatory approach that engages teachers as partners in research and expands their understanding of pedagogical approaches that lead to success for all students.

Researchers will gather data on classroom discourse, student perceptions and learning outcomes to assess the effect of the PBL unit. In particular, the team is interested in possible shifts in how learners represent functions graphically and algebraically, engage in computational thinking, persist in problem-solving and tackle open-ended tasks.

Because of its focus on algebra, this study pilots an approach that has the potential to put computer science squarely in the path of virtually every high school student. The major impact of the study is to initiate a series of linked research and curriculum projects that will ultimately produce a high school mathematics curriculum to better prepare diverse learners for success in the STEM+C careers of tomorrow. Combining strategic curricular design, transformative teacher training and close attention to student experiences and learning outcomes in traditional classroom settings, the study paves the way for further integration of computer science into secondary mathematics to broaden the pipeline of students prepared for STEM+C careers.

To learn more about this award, contact principal investigator Arnulfo Perez,


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