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Graduate Students Conduct Research On Summer Math Programs

August 15th, 2014 - San Marcos, TX
Math Education Ph.D. student Nama Namakshi leads math camp students in a discussion about a math concept.  Namakshi combined hands-on fieldwork and scholarly research to further her dissertation work on mathematics education.
Mathematics Graduate student Jeanne-Marie Linker discusses a math question with a student in the Junior Summer Math Camp program.
This summer, four graduate students in the Mathematics Department had an unique  research experience, combining field work and intensive hands-on activities. Nama  Namakshi, Christian Starkey, Sonalee Bhattacharyya, and Jeanne-Marie Linker, all  Mathematics Education students, worked in the Mathworks summer math programs,  conducting research about pedagogy and classroom practices.
The graduate students' work was supported by the KDK-Harman, Meadows, and Sid W.  Richardson Foundations. They worked alongside Math Department faculty Terry McCabe,  Sharon Strickland, Hiroko Warshauer, and Max Warshauer. Rather than simply read  articles and discuss ideas, the group of graduate students put their ideas to the test in the  2014 Junior Summer Math Camp (JSMC) program. The JSMC program includes more than  200 4th - 8th grade students, hailing from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Led by  master teachers, the students learn algebraic concepts through hands-on activities and  guided discovery learning. Students learn pre-algebraic and algebraic skills through visual  models.
Namakshi, Starkey, Bhattacharyya, and Linker observed and participated in the JSMC  program. They first conducted research about math education activities. Then they  created plans to videotape classroom interactions between students and between teachers  and students. The four graduate students also had opportunities to create their own lesson  plans, and see those lessons implemented in the classrooms. They then discussed areas of  improvement and success in the teaching of those math lessons. In addition, the graduate  students attended math education courses alongside in-service teachers. 
Starkey noted of her experience, “I feel I learned much more from observing and  participating in the research process here  than I would have by simply reading a bunch of articles on my own. I feel much better  prepared to write my proposal and conduct my dissertation research after my experiences  at Mathworks. At the math camp [Junior Summer Math Camp] I observed and videotaped  multiple classrooms, which gave me an opportunity to interact with classroom teachers  and elementary and middle school students, something that I had been previously lacking  in my doctoral education.”
And Linker commented, “This was successful beyond expectation in providing what  graduate students in  mathematics education badly need but rarely find: experience that goes beyond the  university classroom and into the field. ...I am new to the doctoral program, and through  Mathworks I received a significant head start into my own research. The summer program  allowed me access to and participation with middle-school students, educators with  various  levels of experience in the field, professional development programs, and curriculum  design. In addition, with daily guidance from seasoned academicians, I was given the  opportunity to write for publication in academic journals, practice videography for  scholarly research, create and implement a coding rubric for videos, and plan for  presentations in various seminars and conferences. I cannot imagine receiving all of this  experience in a year of study, much less in eight-week summer program.”
Founded in 1990, Mathworks serves as a center for the research and development of  math education programs. Its annual summer math programs for young students are an  ideal "laboratory" for Texas State's Math Education Ph.D. students to conduct research,  discuss topics with professionals who teach every day, and generate new ideas that  ultimately impact math achievement for all students. By providing these rich research  opportunities, Mathworks is helping Texas State University lead the way in mathematics  education.