Math: Conference: Collaborations Between Academic Levels to Promote Successful Student Transitions from Secondary to Post-Secondary Mathematics

Project: Research project

Project Details


High failure rates and increasing enrollments in developmental mathematics courses are key indicators that undergraduate students often struggle with the secondary to post-secondary mathematics transition. Although great efforts have been undertaken at the secondary level to improve the preparation of students for college-level mathematics by providing resources and support to help students be successful, there seems to be little collaborative effort between secondary and post-secondary institutions. In particular, instructors at the two levels rarely have opportunities to discuss students' strengths and weaknesses, learning outcomes, teacher expectations, assessment strategies, and common instructional practices. Thus, in addition to facing challenging mathematical content, post-secondary students enrolled in introductory mathematics courses also are challenged with navigating a cultural shift between the two academic levels. The purpose of this conference is to address the issue of secondary to post-secondary transitions in mathematics by encouraging communication between instructors at both academic levels and by engaging a team of researchers in describing features of both academic cultures which influence students' success. As a result of this collaboration, suggestions for how to better merge students' experiences in mathematics across academic levels will be developed. Although responsibility for students' preparedness for college-level mathematics tends to fall on secondary schools, both academic levels play an important role in facilitating a smooth and successful transition from secondary to post-secondary mathematics. There are three main components to this project: (1) professional development partnerships between one secondary and one post-secondary mathematics instructor, (2) research groups (one calculus and one algebra-focused group), and (3) workshops and a conference to facilitate professional development and dissemination of findings.

The primary goal of this proposal is to foster collaboration between mathematics instructors at the secondary and post-secondary level to share best practices and engage in discussions about facilitating a smoother transition between academic levels. This goal will be met in two ways. First, professional development partnerships between a secondary and post-secondary mathematics instructor will allow for equal sharing of best practices and opportunities to better understand expectations at the other academic level. Second, two research teams will be formed to allow the investigators to immerse themselves in a high school and college course with the intent of comparing the academic cultures. This will inform the body of research on mathematical expectations and classroom norms at both levels. The professional development partnerships consisting of one secondary and one post-secondary mathematics instructor will develope a list of best practices for preparing students for and facilitating a smooth transition between academic levels. These best practices will be shared at the Best Practices in Teaching and Learning Mathematics Conference--one of the components of the project. It is also the intention to develop recommendations suitable for publication in pedagogical journals. The research teams will be conducting formal research by comparing the secondary and post-secondary mathematics culture through two lenses: algebra and calculus. The research findings will lead to intellectual contributions to the mathematics community regarding how particular topics (e.g., slope and limits) are conveyed at each academic level as well as a broader description of classroom norms which may impact students' abilities to successfully navigate the transition between academic levels.

Effective start/end date10/1/159/30/18


  • National Science Foundation: $49,956.00


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