Mathematics Education Center Receives Major NSF Contract

Posted: November 9, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Amy Biderman

George Mason’s Mathematics Education Center is one of the main subcontractors for a $14.7 million National Science Foundation (NSF) project that will evaluate the entire U.S. Department of Education Math and Science Partnership Program and assess its impact on mathematics and science education.

Along with its partners, the center will conduct the program evaluation for COSMOS Corp., which received the NSF contract. George Mason’s work on the project involves the collaboration of faculty in the Graduate School of Education and the Departments of Mathematical Sciences and Physics and Astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences. The university will receive $3.5 million over five years to conduct its work.

“Our contract with the NSF involves looking across the projects in a holistic way to glean the larger insights from the work being done by the math and science partnerships,” says Patricia Moyer-Packenham, College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) associate professor and director of the Mathematics Education Center. Moyer-Packenham, who is a co-principal investigator for the project, adds, “We have an opportunity to research innovative teaching and learning throughout the United States in mathematics and science.”

The evaluation research conducted by George Mason faculty will address four major areas:

  • Teacher quality, quantity and diversity (TQQD)
  • Mathematics and science curriculum
  • Research methods, including the use of rivals and survey data provided by the projects
  • The role of the disciplinary faculty

Authorized by Congress in 2002, the Math and Science Partnership Program (MSP) includes a portfolio of 77 awards that join institutions of higher education with PK-12 schools across the country to strengthen K-12 math and science education, improve student achievement and reduce achievement gaps among student populations. The entire portfolio of awards totals $600 million.

Moyer-Packenham and staff
Patricia Moyer-Packenham (second from left) and her staff (left to right): Hana Oh, research assistant; Johnna Bolyard, research assistant professor; and Rosemary Kendricks, administrative office specialist.
Creative Services photo

A key goal of the partnerships is to increase the quality, quantity and diversity of PK-12 mathematics and science teachers.

”This project looks at some of the cutting-edge research that defines quality teaching. If we can improve diversity, address issues of equity and understand how teacher quantity issues such as mobility, recruitment and retention impact the teaching workforce in America – and then synthesize that information for broad audiences of educators and policymakers – we have the potential to make important contributions to teaching mathematics and science and reduce the achievement gap,” Moyer-Packenham says.

Also leading the evaluation team are Robert Yin, lead principal investigator, COSMOS Corp.; Kenneth Wong, co-principal investigator, Brown University; and Jennifer Scherer, co-principal investigator, COSMOS Corp.

The team is designing a variety of five-year sub-studies for the program evaluation. In addition to her work as co-principal investigator for the evaluation project, Moyer-Packenham will oversee the TQQD sub-study. Other Mason faculty in CEHD and the sub-studies they are working on include Margret Hjalmarson, mathematics curriculum; Eamonn Kelly, mathematics curriculum and research designs; Dimiter Dimitrov and Anastasia Kitsantas, research methods; and Johnna Bolyard and Hana Oh, TQQD.

Mathematical Sciences faculty and their sub-studies are Kathleen Alligood and Klaus Fischer, TQQD; and Tom Nuttall and Bob Sachs, mathematics curriculum. Physics and Astronomy faculty are Maria Dworzecka and Harold Geller, science curriculum.

In addition, Rosemary Kendricks, the center’s administrative office specialist, will organize and track hundreds of documents that are part of the research evaluation process.

Moyer-Packenham notes that the center already has been working at the local level to improve teacher quality.

“It’s important that our report represent innovations and insights on education because the work has the potential to influence educational policy that would, in turn, impact our nation’s schools and the mathematics teaching and learning in those schools.”

This article originally appeared in College of Education and Human Development Magazine in a slightly different format.

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