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Patton College of Education faculty receive NSF grant to research connecting elementary mathematics teaching to real-world issues

Ohio University Patton College of Education associate professor in the department of teacher education Dr. Matt Felton-Koestler and director of the OHIO Center of Equity in Mathematics and Science Dr. Courtney Koestler have been awarded a collaborative research grant titled Connecting Elementary Mathematics Teaching to Real-World Issues from the National Science Foundation.

Felton-Koestler and Koestler will work in partnership with their colleagues, Dr. Eva Thanheiser and Dr. Amanda Sugimoto from Portland State University. They will also be supported by an advisory board of mathematics education scholars: Drs. Tonya Bartell, Theodore Chao, Naomi Jessup, Erin Turner, Dorothy White, and Maria del Rosario Zavala.

“I am just so excited to be able to do this important work in close collaboration with local experts – the teachers in our public schools,” Koestler said. “There hasn’t been a lot of in-depth cases of published work, especially in elementary math classrooms, and this funding will allow for this to happen.”

This three-year project will focus on making elementary mathematics meaningful and applicable inside and outside of the classroom by connecting math to real-world topics, including current events and societal issues that are relevant to students’ lives.      

There has been limited research on effective design and teaching practices for creating and implementing tasks of this nature, especially at the elementary level. The project aims to develop a set of lessons/tasks with rich records of practice (supporting documents, such as vignettes and/or videos, examples of student work, and teacher notes) and to study effective design and teaching practices that go into creating and implementing these tasks.

“There has been a growing focus on using school math to analyze important real-world issues, but we need a better understanding of what goes into effective design and teaching of these tasks,” Felton-Koestler said. “We’ve had some wonderful experiences working with middle grades students in summer camps focused on social issues. I’m looking forward to the chance to focus on elementary grades and especially to collaborate more closely with local teachers.”

Matt Felton-Koestler
Matt Felton-Koestler, Associate Professor in the Department of Teacher Education, teaches student about problem solving.

In the first year of the project, the OHIO and PSU researchers will be recruiting and working closely with a team of schoolteachers from local public schools to develop, design, and pilot lessons and tasks to implement more fully in year two when Koestler and Sugimoto are embedded in elementary classrooms. In the third year of the grant, the team will continue creating rich cases of their work to share more broadly. Of the $1.9 million in total funding, Ohio University is expecting to receive $985,598 in grant funds to support this work.

Koestler also mentioned how thankful they were for the support of the Department of Teacher Education and the dean’s office of The Patton College.

“Without Dean Renée Middleton’s constant support, the guidance of Chip Rice, the research grants development coordinator in the college, and our colleagues in Teacher Education, this whole project would not be possible. I really feel fortunate to have this opportunity to focus on working with teachers and to be able to go out in the field so extensively,” Koestler said.

For more information about the Collaborative Research: Connecting Elementary Mathematics Teaching to Real-World Issues project, visit the NSF project abstract pages here and here. For more information about Felton-Koestler’s scholarship, visit his faculty page here. For more information about Koestler’s work in the OHIO Center for Equity in Mathematics and Science, go to the OCEMS page here.

May 20, 2021
Staff reports