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Research

New Projects

Community-Based Engineering Community-Based Engineering
Kristen Wendell, NSF CAREER grant, with Tejaswini Dalvi
Community-Based Engineering has elementary school teachers consider real problems (e.g. increasing frequency of flooding on MBTA tracks) and develop possible solutions (prototyping flood barriers). The research studies how these experiences affects how they teach engineering, especially in schools serving communities that have had limited access to STEM.
Designing Biomimetic Robots Designing Biomimetic Robots
Kristen Wendell and Ethan Danahy are collaborating Debra Bernstein and Gilly Puttick at TERC to use educational robotics — specifically the Hummingbird Robot kit — to develop, refine, and study the impact of a biomimetic robotics design curriculum for sixth through eighth grade students. The project is funded by NSF.
The Hybrid Labs Project The Hybrid Labs Project
PI Julia Gouvea and Aditi Wagh, funded by the Davis Foundation
The Hybrid Labs project is developing undergraduate biology laboratories that couple computational modeling and experimentation and training graduate student TA's in new pedagogy. Research in the project will study both undergraduate students' and graduate TA's learning, of practices in science and approaches to teaching.
Integrating Computational Making into STEM Teaching Re-making STEM: Integrating Computational Making into STEM Teaching
Tufts PI's Brian Gravel, James Adler, Tim Atherton, and Aditi Wagh, funded by NSF
This is a two-year partnership with TERC, Olin College of Engineering, Malden High School, and Cambridge Rindge and Latin. The project is to integrate computational practices into STEM content classrooms, and from there to study teacher and student learning.

Continuing Projects

Here is a sampling of the research currently (and formerly) going on by faculty in the department. Take a look, and feel free to get in touch with any of us for more information, with questions, and with ideas for collaboration.

Children's Mathematical Representations
Bárbara M. Brizuela
The Children's Mathematical Representations project investigates children's early learning of mathematical notations. It builds from the assumption that conventional knowledge is built on prior understandings. From this assumption, it follows that children's ideas about mathematical notations could be constitutive of their later conventional understandings. One of the central tasks of the investigation is to document how children initially represent numerical and mathematical understandings and how and why their expressive repertoire changes over time.
Dynamics of Learners' Engagement and Persistence in Science
David Hammer
Dynamics of Learners' Engagement and Persistence in Science is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. We look across educational experiences from elementary school to university to  find examples of students' engagement in science, in particular moments, lasting for days, or even personal transformations over a semester. Within each of these, we are studying what contributes to that engagement—how it begins, how it sustains.
Early Algebra
María Blanton and Bárbara M. Brizuela
Through design based classroom teaching experiments, the Early Algebra Project investigates the ways in which children from Kindergarten through 8th grade generalize, justify, represent, and reason algebraically. Through our research, we have shown that introducing algebra as part of the early mathematics curriculum is highly feasible and we have also clarified how specific representational tools — tables, graphs, numerical and algebraic notation, and certain natural language structures — can be employed to help students express functional relations among numbers and quantities and solve algebra problems.
Poincaré Institute for Mathematics Education
Montserrat Teixidor-i-Bigas, David W. Carraher and Analúcia Schliemann
The Poincaré Institute brings together expertise from mathematics, mathematics education, and physics to help teachers deepen and broaden their understanding of middle school mathematics. Rather than re-teach the mathematics that the teachers already know or offer a set of pre-packaged lessons, the Institute offers them a broad, unified framework to re-envision the mathematics they already teach. The mathematical focus of the Institute is algebra and the mathematics of functions.
Prison Knowledge Production and Schooling
Sabina Vaught
This set of research projects includes ethnography of institutions, policies, archives, and epistolary engagements. The inquiry focuses on the mechanisms of counter-insurgent state punishment and insurgent knowledge in schooling and prison, particularly through systemic and cultural dimensions of race and gender. The interplay of the state, law, private spheres, and public spheres form the analytical nexus of these projects.
STEMLiMS: Investigating STEM Literacies in Makerspaces
PI Brian Gravel, in collaboration with Eli Tucker-Raymond at TERC
STEMLiMS is an NSF-funded project project aimed at understanding how participants in makerspaces engage in STEM literacy practices as they create and produce physical products of personal and social value. We are studying how participants in makerspaces interpret, use, and create representational texts, and we will use what we learn to inform the design of makerspaces for learners. Sites for our work include Artisan's Asylum, the South End Tech Center and Sprout & Co. as well as the makerspaces at the Cambridge Friends School and the Somerville STEAM Academy.