Plenary Abstracts


for the Thirteenth Special Interest Group of the Mathematical Association of America

on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education

Conference on Research in 
Undergraduate Mathematics Education


Marriott Raleigh City Center - Raleigh, North Carolina

February 25 – February 28, 2010


The Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs (SCALE-UP) Project


Robert J. Beichner, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Physics

North Carolina State University


How do you keep a classroom of 100 undergraduates actively learning? Can students practice communication and teamwork skills in a large class? How do you boost the performance of underrepresented groups? The SCALE-UP Project has addressed these concerns. The room design and pedagogy have been adopted at more than 100 leading institutions across the country. Physics, chemistry, math, astronomy, biology, engineering, earth sciences, and even literature classes are currently being taught this way.


Hundreds of hours of classroom video and audio recordings, transcripts of numerous interviews and focus groups, data from conceptual learning assessments (using widely-recognized instruments in a pretest/posttest protocol), and collected portfolios of student work are part of our rigorous assessment effort.


In this talk I will briefly discuss the classroom environment, describe some of the activities, and review the findings of studies of learning in various SCALE-UP settings.


This project has been generously supported by the U.S. Department of EducationŐs FIPSE program and the National Science FoundationŐs CCLI program.


Researching the Practical Rationality of Mathematics Teaching


Pat Herbst

University of Michigan


I outline theory and methods of a program of research on teacher thinking founded on the notion of practical rationality—the set of dispositions that enable teachers of a particular course of studies to handle the demands of instructional exchanges. Using as an example the situation that we call Ňinstalling a theoremÓ in high school geometry, I show how we go about creating conditions for empirical data collection by way of developing and using animations of classroom scenarios. These animations show scenarios that are out of the ordinary and thus compel practitioners to comment on them. I show examples of what teachers say in response to one of our animations, and how we use tools from argumentation and linguistic analysis to discover teachersŐ dispositions toward particular actions and the categories of appreciation they use to judge those actions.


Trajectory Errors in Advanced Mathematical Thinking


Adrian Simpson

Josephine Butler College, Durham University, UK


In this talk, I will examine the notion of a learning trajectory in undergraduate mathematics education. While this is a useful notion, introduced to allow teachers to think about the kinds of task they might use to support the development of their students' mathematical concepts, I will argue that it is all too easy to oversimplify a learning trajectory. Illustrated by examples of research undertaken with various co-authors, or shamelessly stolen from people much brighter than I am, the talk will examine a number of 'trajectory errors,' which can cause us (or our students) to miss the conceptual outcomes at which we aim. I would like to also talk about how to solve the 'trajectory error' problems, but annoyingly I really don't have an answer.