MSU launches new Institute for Research on Mathematics and Science Education

October 25, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Michigan State University will expand its capacity to improve mathematics and science education across the nation through the creation of a new, interdisciplinary research center.

The Institute for Research on Mathematics and Science Education is expected to bring together top scholars from the science and education fields and facilitate projects that can address the most pressing challenges related to learning math and science, from the kindergarten through college level.

University leaders will introduce the institute during a two-day colloquium on K-12 mathematics, with a particular emphasis on the impact of the new Common Core State Standards in mathematics, this Wednesday and Thursday in Washington, D.C.  The institute is co-administered by the College of Education and the College of Natural Science.

“Michigan State University is recognized as a leader in math education. The launch of the Institute for Research in Mathematics and Science Education represents another step forward in that long tradition of leadership,” said MSU Provost Kim Wilcox. “MSU faculty members understand the importance of math and science education in today’s society, as well as the responsibility they have to the nation to help make a positive difference in these areas.”

The institute’s interim director William Schmidt, a University Distinguished Professor in the College of Education, said excellent research on math and science education demands the involvement of biologists, chemists and other relevant subject-matter experts. Likewise, partnering with educational researchers who deeply understand curriculum, teaching and assessment can help scientists translate their findings to the classroom.

“This institute provides support for collaborative work and increases it to a larger scale,” Schmidt said. “We know it’s really important for students to receive a strong foundation in math and science and this is about the research needed to accomplish that.”

Initially, research affiliated with the institute will focus on mathematics, biology and physics, particularly in grades 7-12 and the first years of college. Projects will address issues of preparing high-quality teachers, educating individuals pursuing science-related careers and developing general mathematics and scientific literacy.

The institute will receive guidance from an advisory board of leading MSU faculty members, including:

–          Wolfgang Bauer, Department of Physics and Astronomy

–          Konrad Gelbke, National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory

–          John Merrill, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

–          Richard Triemer, Department of Plant Biology

–          Yang Wang, Department of Mathematics

–          Kenneth Keegstra, Plant Research Laboratory

–          Glenda Lappan, Department of Mathematics

Leading mathematicians, math educators and researchers were invited to institute’s kick-off colloquium this week in Washington, which will explore questions surrounding the Common Core State Standards released by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The standards, which are expected to be adopted in most states, are intended to create a clear, consistent and research-based framework for teaching mathematics across the nation.

Keynote speakers include University of Arizona mathematician William G. McCallum, who led the work team that developed the Common Core math standards, and James Taylor of the Harrison Group.

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