NCTC, SMU receive National Science Foundation grant

Elizabeth F. Abu | Jul 19, 2018

North Central Texas College (NCTC) and Southern Methodist University (SMU) are collaborating on a 3-year, $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The goal of this grant is to improve learning outcomes for mathematics students by tying content to careers and interest in STEM careers, with a secondary goal of increasing and diversifying the STEM pipeline.

“This grant will assist students with career exploration, hopefully increasing the number of students interested in pursuing a career in STEM fields and opening up possibilities that a student may not have considered previously,” said NCTC Mathematics Division Chair Elizabeth Howell. “Even more importantly, the personalization of problems to career interests has the potential to make the mathematics relevant in a way that accentuates student learning and long-term retention.”

In Year 1, NCTC will conduct surveys and interviews with NCTC students enrolled in foundational, credit-level mathematics courses to get to know their career aspirations and interests.

For Year 2, NCTC will write personalized problems and test personalized online activities using ASSISTments software with at least 30 students at NCTC during interviews. College representatives will revise the activities based on the results from this study.

In the final year, at least 200 NCTC students enrolled in foundational mathematics courses will complete four online assignments in ASSISTments, based on a student’s career interests. Some students will receive problems that are not personalized and that are similar to those in the original assignment, this will be the control group.

SMU will conduct similar surveys and assignments within their student population and a parallel high school study will be conducted in the spring semesters in each of the three grant years.

This project will create and disseminate a bank of hundreds of algebra problem-solving and -posing tasks personalized to STEM career interests. These problems will be freely available via ASSISTments and many will be complete with hints, narrated videos of real student solutions, and scaffolds like interviews with STEM experts.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to learn about NCTC students and make the mathematics in our courses more meaningful and relevant for them,” added Howell.