Real-world applications are improving the teaching of mathematics across the United States. During the 2013–2014 school year, a research study was conducted that tested more innovative ways to increase student engagement in mathematics. The University of Chicago’s Urban Education Lab and 100Kin10 selected the California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and Mathalicious—both winners of the 100Kin10 Research Design Competition—to be their partners in this yearlong study. One of the sponsors of this contest, 100Kin10, is a network of educational partners designed to provide US classrooms with 100,000 well-equipped STEM teachers by 2021. The initiative aims to integrate real-world problem solving into K–12 education by providing students with a variety of skills in the STEM subjects, even for those who not pursuing mathematics at a college level.

As a result of their win, both partners worked with math teachers to improve instruction of mathematics Common Core State Standards; each partner used $100,000 in funds to aid the educational study. This work and the results of the study could influence implementation of the new standards in the near future.

One of the contest winners, Mathalicious, creates middle and high school math lessons about real topics to foster critical and global thinking. Its part of the study included control and treatment groups of teachers, each allowed a different level of access to Mathalicious’s professional support; results were measured using student feedback as well as teachers’ reactions. An example of the company’s approach can be found in its “Domino Effect” lesson, which utilizes students’ understanding of linear equations to calculate the actual base price for a Domino’s pizza and how much each additional topping costs. Another lesson, called “Out of Left Field,” uses quadratic functions to determine which major league ballpark is the hardest to hit a home run in.

CSULB, the other contest winner, managed the second component of the study. Its team focused on Lesson Study, a process in which a group of teachers collaborate, plan and critique any given lesson. This assessment took place near the Long Beach campus in a school district with a high population of English language learners (ELLs). CSULB’s goal was to bolster the Lesson Study process for grades 2 through 5 and tailor it to the diverse school district. CSULB also needed the process to correspond to the mathematics Common Core State Standards.

Dr. Beverly L. Young, assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs at CSU, let PSG know that this part of the study “was completed and demonstrated promising results of the Lesson Study research.” Dr. Young assured us that the results of these studies are forthcoming and are expected to be published this spring.

Did You Know?

Della Pietra High School offers an Applied Math Program at Stony Brook University. The semester-long program allows students to study different types of applied mathematics such as game theory and computer modeling. This program is a part of the Long Island Mathematics Circle, and its purpose is to bring professors and students together to explore new topics and research avenues in applied mathematics.