WSU Researcher Uses Tech To Help Teachers Understand Students’ Math Skills

DETROIT — A Wayne State University researcher is working to help mathematics teacher candidates make the transition from solving problems to helping others to solve them.

S. Asli Ozgun-Koca, associate professor of teacher education and mathematics education in the College of Education, recently received a one-year, $3,600 grant from the Community Telecommunications Network to use the latest technology to collect and categorize the problem-solving and mathematical-thinking processes of K-12 students.

The money will be used to buy Livescribe pens to enhance the education of undergraduate and master’s-level WSU mathematics teacher candidates. The pens record written notes as well as the students’ own words, and send them wirelessly to a cloud computer, where they are accessible to candidates with a web-based player.

Titled “Working with Dynamic Digital Student Work as Becoming a Teacher,” Ozgun-Koca’s project will enable candidates to use the recordings to see different steps of student work and hear students describe their thinking. As a result, she said, they then can use that to help students move forward.

“We used to do this with written work, which is very powerful too, but kind of limited,” Ozgun-Koca said.

She believes the recordings will help teacher candidates understand students’ thinking processes more efficiently. The project also will involve building a database that will grow every academic year for use by future candidates.

Many candidates have good backgrounds in mathematics and have had positive experiences with the subject, Ozgun-Koca said, but the same is not true for many struggling mathematics students.

“As teacher educators, this project will give us a way to provide candidates with a way to see mathematics through someone else’s eyes,” she said. “The plan is move them from being doers to teachers by thinking about a problem or situation from a student’s perspective.”

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