Grants Enable Teaching STEM Concepts through Visualization and Collaboration Among Mathematicians

By Violeta Ivanova, Educational Technology Consultant, OEIT, and Instructor, Edgerton Center

Math VisualizationOEIT is pleased to announce two grants for technology-enabled educational innovation.

The MIT Alumni Class Funds committee awarded $18,140 to Violeta Ivanova PhD'98 and Professor Katrin Wehrheim, Mathematics, to develop a new undergraduate subject titled Visualization in Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education. Through interactive assignments and class activities in visual arts media, such as photography, illustration, stop-motion and computer animation, and web graphics, the new subject will introduce students to principles and techniques for visual communication of educational concepts in mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering.

Dr. Ivanova will design the curriculum and teach the class while Prof. Wehrheim will advise on assignments relevant to mathematics majors. Faculty and instructors from other departments, including Professor John Belcher, Physics, will advise on visualization assignments relevant to their disciplines. The 12-unit subject, listed as SP.736, will be offered for the first time in Spring 2011 at the Edgerton Center.

Ivanova is also Key Personnel on a $149,268 grant by the National STEM Distributed Learning (NSDL) program of the National Science Foundation to the project titled Mathematical Communication Space: Resource for Educators, for which Professor Haynes Miller, Mathematics, is Principal Investigator, and Ms. Susan Ruff of the Writing Across the Curriculum program is also Key Personnel. The MIT team, which also includes programmer Michael (Mitcho) Erlewine 'G and mathematics instructor Dr. Sami Assaf, is partnering with the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) to create a national online resource for teaching mathematical communication.

Math CI LogoAn experimental version of this resource at MIT, called the MIT Math CI Space, currently provides advice for structuring and teaching communication-intensive math courses and a venue for discussion so the content may be collaboratively refined over time. The MIT Math CI Space was developed using the open-source blogging and publishing platform Wordpress and has been actively used by math instructors since the fall of 2009. The NSF grant will be used to refine the MIT site to the point at which it can be shared with other institutions. Dr. Lisa Shure of TLL will lead the project's assessment and evaluation. The new national site, the Mathematical Communication Space, will be hosted by MAA's MathDL Pathway, a digital library that brings together a plethora of resources in Mathematics from universities across the nation