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Wayne State University researcher using technology to help teacher candidates understand students' math problem solving patterns

June 19, 2013

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, Ph.D., 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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Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit http://www.research.wayne.edu