The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth today will open a new research center -- the James Kaput Center for Research and Innovation in Mathematics Education -- dedicated to democratizing access to high level math and confronting the national problem of low math achievement, especially in underpriveleged populations.
The Center, named for the late UMass Dartmouth math professor known around the world as a math education innovator, was officially opened at 200 Mill Road, Fairhaven where the university has also located its Center For Marketing Research and Center for University and School Partnerships. The Kaput Center is engaged in a full range of projects focused on early algebra (K-6), SimCalc, the Proof Project across K-16, and the use of haptic devices which enable students to touch and feel mathematical objects.
At the opening, which will attract business, education, and government leaders, Center Director Stephen Hegedus unveiled the results of a 4-year study known as the SimCalc Classroom Connectivity Project conducted in area (Dartmouth and Fairhaven) schools, indicating that the SimCalc program designed by the Center faculty had a "significant impact on students' learning and participation in high school algebra classrooms." This report is a follow-up to a similar study of math performance in Texas.
"I am very excited about the possibilities of using our innovative approach in a wide variety of classrooms, and directly attending to the Algebra problem that we face in schools," Dr. Hegedus said. "This is a major bottleneck that is hurting our global productivity. We need to enable students to express themselves in new ways and help them make sense of the structure of mathematical ideas through new forms of classroom participation."
UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Jean MacCormack said, "Jim Kaput left us many gifts. He left us with a passion for improving educational opportunity. He left us with a belief in the potential of young people from all backgrounds to learn when challenged and inspired. He left us with an obligation to do better for the sake of young students but also for the sake of our society. And he left us with a smart, talented, creative and dedicated team devoted to meeting an urgent national challenge."
"Improving math performance of young people, breaking down the barriers that are holding back minorities and women from a life of science is a civil rights issue and a national security issue," said University of Massachusetts President Jack Wilson, a physicist who came to know Professor Kaput's work when both were working to improve math and science teaching. "The bottom line is that our sons and daughters, our grandchildren, our Commonwealth and nation, will not be able compete in the future if we do not meet the math and science challenge soon. The Kaput Center is a place that exists to meet that challenge."
The SimCalc Classroom Connectivity Project combined dynamic, interactive representations and software-driven simulations (SimCalc MathWorlds) with wireless networks such as TI-Navigator, to make math meaningful to students. The study indicates that 10th graders who used the SimCalc method scored higher on MCAS (the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) and AP Calculus questions than students who did not use the program.
In addition, the researchers analyzed hundreds of hours of classroom video to highlight the new forms of classroom participation and mathematical expression that students engaged in when using the program.
Hegedus said, "We have seen important new advances by combining the dynamic attributes of SimCalc MathWorlds with wireless connectivity such as TI- Navigator. We wish to transform, not change, the educational landscape of mathematics classrooms by focusing directly on communication and participation. Enabling students to identity themselves with their mathematical work is an important feature of our success."
The full study can be found at http://www.kaputcenter.umassd.edu/products/technical_reports/
The Texas study can be found at http://math.sri.com
The Center has recently been awarded $2 million from the U.S. Department of Education to examine the impact of this teaching approach at various stages of high school and in a wide variety of urban and rural districts.
The Center will pay particular attention to the impact the approach has on students' motivation to study math in the 11th and 12th grades and enter STEM-related careers. The U.S.-funded project will study the impact of SimCalc on student performance in New Bedford, New Bedford Vocational Technical, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Westport, Wareham, Dighton-Rehoboth and Old Rochester Regional school systems
More about the James Kaput Center for Research and Innovation in Mathematics Education
The Kaput Center has been established in the spirit and vision of the late James Kaput, a longtime UMass Dartmouth Professor of Mathematics whose innovative thinking and leadership inspired many in the field of mathematics education.
The purpose of this Center is to provide a focus and support for sustained investigation of foundational issues in the field of mathematics education, issues that will be chosen to enhance and deepen ongoing research by its members and associates. The Center is a place where fundamental problems in mathematics education will be studied, discussed and analyzed through conferences, colloquium series, basic research and development, commissioned reports, and think-tank meetings.
To contact the Center directly:
Dr. Stephen Hegedus