Instructors to Support Five-Year Grant-Funded Study of Math Course Content

Ferris State University

PHOTO CAPTION: (From left) Assistant professor of Nursing Rhonda Bishop, professor of Social Work Mischelle Stone and associate professor of Math Victor Piercey are part of a grant-funded faculty learning community at Ferris State University. Assistant professors of Math Erin Militzer and Anil Ventakesh are supporting the course content review work of this group, by serving as editors of the materials in classes intended for Business, Social Work and Health Professions students.

Five members of Ferris State University’s faculty are entering into a five-year collaborative process, with the goal of offering Business, Social Work and Health Professions students improved class content and course materials in their mathematics instruction.

The National Science Foundation is funding the work of associate Math professor Victor Piercey, Social Work professor Mischelle Stone and assistant professor of Nursing Rhonda Bishop, by providing a $186,000 grant. Assistant Math professors Erin Militzer and Anil Ventakesh will also support the work of their peers, by serving as editors of course materials as the study progresses.

Piercey said that Stone and Bishop will be reviewing these materials in an effort to shape new Math classes, known as Math 109 and Math 114, or “Quantitative Reasoning for Professionals, One and Two.” At the end of this process, the courses’ content will offer applications and contexts that would be most useful to students in the Business, Social Work and Health Care degree programs.

“We are developing these courses with the hope of having students explore mathematical concepts using active learning techniques,” Piercey said. “These offerings will be sort of a local hybrid where students will be encouraged to develop and exhibit their problem solving and critical thinking skills.”

The NSF is providing more than $2.6 million in grants to back the efforts of 11 institutions furthering a research effort known as “Curriculum Foundations,” which was originally conducted by a committee within the Mathematics Association of America. This larger group of 11 institutions will operate as a faculty learning community with the task of implementing recommendations made in the MAA report. Piercey said that he is serving as principal investigator for Ferris’ project.

“I want to build on the opportunity to improve how students view math,” Piercey said. “I’m interested to find out how these efforts might impact retention. This also helps Ferris have a place in the national conversation, as it applies to an improved math product for all students.”

Piercey said he is serving as a co-principal investigator on the overall grant led by professor Susan Ganter, of Virginia Tech. Grant resources will support his travel to site visits related to the faculty learning communities, as well as duties related to his service on the management team. The other faculty members involved will receive stipends for summer semester work to review and revise course materials or edit that content. The university is also in a subgroup, or “network,” defined by commonalities in the type of Math class involved, the nature of partner disciplines, or pedagogy choices. Faculty teams will be making visits to observe project work during the grant period.

“We will hope to elicit common sense approaches to mathematics concepts, through the adjustment of course materials, incorporating various concepts. We also hope to use more inclusive language in the course materials, to support the learning of under-represented student groups,” Piercey said. “It is exciting work.”