Texas Tech Receives $2.7 million Grant From National Science Foundation

Professors hope to bridge gap for scientific application of math for area schoolchildren.

Texas Tech University will receive $2.7 million from the National Science Foundation to help area schoolchildren understand the connection between math and science.

The $2.7 million GK-12 grant, one of 26 awarded nationally, will pay for the Building Bridges: Integrating Math, Science, and Engineering Education on the South Plains program. This initiative seeks to bridge the importance of learning math for its practical application in science for children in elementary through high school.

"This program stems from a need we see and saw years ago," said Dominick Casadonte, chairman of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and lead investigator for the program. "When kids in junior high and high school learn math, they always ask, ‘what do I need this for?’ Kids don’t know how to apply math to science, because they’re two very separate things taught apart from each other. We thought, ‘wouldn’t it be neat to show them how math and science really work together?’"

Texas Tech’s program will join about 150 across the country, Casadonte said. However, unlike other programs, Texas Tech’s program includes a multidisciplinary approach to teaching math, science and engineering.

The money will provide $30,000 stipends for eight to 10 graduate students per year in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines, in exchange for participation in two summer institutes and 15 hours per week service working with area high school math and science teachers.

These graduate students will work with math and science teachers from area schools during the summer to develop curriculum, then apply these lessons next year. The graduate students will improve their abilities in communicating their research interests and skills to a broad audience and will learn pedagogical skills from their interactions with the teachers.

As an outreach mathematician working with teachers of kindergarten through 12th grade, assistant professor of mathematics Jerry Dwyer said he had considered the National Science Foundation’s GK-12 Grant Program to be an ideal way to create a new generation of faculty with greater expertise in outreach.

"What I see are students who do not see the usefulness of mathematics at all," Dwyer said. "They say ‘when will we ever use this?’ I think that integrated math-science modules serve a dual purpose. They show that math is useful and they help to motivate students to study math. The project team has a nice interdisciplinary balance. The teachers will bring experience that will truly benefit the graduate students. The students will find enjoyment in the newly developed modules."

The multidisciplinary principal investigator team includes Casadonte from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Dwyer from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Mary Baker from the Department of Electrical Engineering, Jennifer Wilhelm from the College of Education, and Kim Perry from Lubbock Independent School District.

CONTACT: Dominick Casadonte, chairman of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-1832, or dominick.casadonte@ttu.edu, Jerry Dwyer, assistant professor of mathematics, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, (806) 742-2580 ext. 230, or jerry.dwyer@ttu.edu