School of Education and Human Services

OU professor earns NSF CAREER award for research on mathematics identity

icon of a calendarFebruary 7, 2024

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OU professor earns NSF CAREER award for research on mathematics identity
Dr. Dawn Woods
Dr. Dawn Woods

Dr. Dawn Woods, an assistant professor in the School of Education and Human Services at Oakland University, has received a five-year, $781,196 CAREER award from the National Science Foundation in support of her research project, entitled “Sparking ‘Number Talks’ to Strengthen Mathematical Identities.”

“Receiving the NSF CAREER award is an amazing opportunity to understand the role mathematics identity plays in the learning process,” Woods said. “I look forward to collaborating with amazing students, community, and school partners. I am so excited to begin this project and to learn with them.”

The CAREER Award is part of the NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development Program, which recognizes early-career faculty members who have demonstrated the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education, and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.

“The School of Education and Human Services is proud and happy for Dr. Woods”  said SEHS Dean Jon Margerum-Leys. “Her work is very much consistent with our values of supporting student success and working alongside the P-12 community.”

Dr. David Stone, vice president for research at OU, agreed.

“We at Oakland University could not be more proud of Dr. Woods’ accomplishment,” he said. “The NSF CAREER award is not simply a research grant, it is an investment by the National Science Foundation in the long-term potential of extraordinary early career researchers, and Dr. Woods exemplifies that potential.”

Woods’ research will focus primarily on cultivating and strengthening productive mathematical identities so that students will see sense in mathematics, perceive it as useful, and believe that effort in learning mathematics pays off.

This project has the potential to improve kindergarten to third grade mathematics education for students from historically and persistently marginalized groups by understanding students’ informal mathematical knowledge and then leveraging these resources to strengthen their mathematical identity,” said Woods, who will serve as principal investigator on the project.

“This project will also equip educators to intentionally design number talks (10-to-15-minute math discussions where students mentally solve mathematics problems and then come together as a class to share their mathematical reasoning) building upon the knowledge, resources, and strengths families and communities possess.”

Using participatory research methodologies, the project will begin in collaboration with students, families, and community partners as they take photos of how mathematics is used in everyday, out-of-school activities.

Then, teachers will engage in participatory research to plan number talks using the photos documenting how mathematics is used in everyday, out-of-school activities. Next, teachers will enact these number talks with their students, reflect on the process of teaching and learning, and revise number talks with an eye on identity development.

“Together, we will seek to understand how the mathematical objects contained in number talks will mediate learning to build students’ productive mathematical identity, as well as their number sense,” Woods said.

The goal of the project, Woods said, is to identify the instructional design principles of number talks that support (or hinder) productive mathematical identity development while determining how mathematics identity evolves over time.

“Findings of this project will help us to understand how the integration of learning, knowing, and doing that are familiar to students can be leveraged to build positive mathematical identities,” Woods added.

This award is funded by the Discovery Research preK-12 program, which seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools.

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