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Moore receives $741,492 NSF grant to increase quantitative reasoning in math teaching

  |   Michael Childs   |   Permalink   |   News Release

College of Education researcher has been awarded a five-year, $741,492 National Science Foundation grant to study how to increase the use of quantitative reasoning in the teaching and learning of mathematics.

Today, quantitative reasoning is needed in virtually all academic fields, is used in most every profession and is necessary for decision-making in everyday life. And yet, it remains largely absent from the teaching and learning of mathematics, particularly at the secondary level, said Kevin Moore, an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Science Education.

As a result of this absence, K-12 students are often unprepared for future studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Complicating the situation, K-12 teachers are not sufficiently trained to support their students' quantitative reasoning, he said.

Moore hopes to help change that by redesigning a current mathematics education course to focus more on developing future teachers' quantitative reasoning. He believes the new version of the course can be used as a model by universities and colleges across the nation to prepare more secondary teachers to teach quantitative reasoning in mathematics.

Over the past 20 years, education researchers and curriculum experts, including those who developed the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM), have urged mathematics educators to increase emphasis on quantitative reasoning.

So what is quantitative reasoning? "It's about how we see the world around us as composed of mathematics," said Moore. "When we go to the store, we're dealing with prices per pound, right? Kids understand what it means for us to have a height. They understand some intuitive notions of speed—what it means to go fast and what it means to go slow.

"If you look at most approaches to teaching mathematics it's all very numbers based. Students are playing with numbers all the time. But when those numbers aren't representative of something to them, they're just playing with them procedurally, just multiplying and dividing because, 'Oh, that's what we do,' without a deeper understanding. So quantitative reasoning is about putting meaning to the numbers," he said.

Moore wants his UGA pre-service teachers (PSTs) to employ mathematics so that their future middle and high school students explore math in a deep way, so that they understand mathematics in ways that benefit their learning and future success in whatever they do.

"We want to engage them in quantitative reasoning. Research tells us that our PSTs weren't engaged in quantitative reasoning in their high school classrooms," said Moore. "So our first goal is to give them experiences in quantitative reasoning and then ask them to think about how they would do this with their students."

The project will allow Moore to continue his earlier research into the development of different instructional experiences and curriculum that support PSTs' quantitative reasoning and produce transformational shifts in their knowledge.

The project will seek to answer these questions through an iterative, multi-phase study of PSTs enrolled in a secondary mathematics education content course. The study implements a series of classroom design experiments that will reveal central aspects of PSTs' quantitative reasoning and the instructional experiences that support such reasoning. By drawing this knowledge from a classroom setting, the project will create research-based and practice-driven products and methods that will improve the teaching and learning of mathematics.

"The course materials we are developing really embody quantitative reasoning and how best to teach it," said Moore. "We will also create workshop materials to use with high school teachers, which will include instructional activities for their use in classrooms."

In addition to providing transformational experiences for 150 PSTs over five years, the project will influence the PSTs' future middle and high school students and those teachers with whom they collaborate professionally. The establishment of research-based curricular materials in UGA's secondary mathematics education program will influence all future program PSTs.

The project titled, Advancing Secondary Mathematics Teachers' Quantitative Reasoning, is supported by a NSF Early Career Grant under award number DRL-1350342.

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