Research: Math and Education

My math reasearch focuses on studying chaotic dynamical systems, particularly geodesic flow on surfaces and billiard systems (list of publications, CV). My colleagues and I have made new examples of surfaces that produce chaotic motions well as studing the transition between regular and chaotic motions.

I also do research on bringing about educational change with a focus on how multiple institutions can work together to support STEM teachers and improve STEM educaiton. My interest in this issue started when I was Co-Principal Investigator of the Math Science Partnership of Greater Philadelphia (MSPGP, Joe Merlino PI). In this project involving 13 Institutions of Higher Education and 46 School Districts in the Greater Philadelphia region, we explored how to share resources and expertise among the partners so as to improve K-16 STEM education. This project evolved into a non-profit organization, The 21st Century Partnership for STEM Education (21 PSTEM ), which recently received a large USAID grant to reform STEM education in Egypt.  I sit on the 21 PSTEM Board of Directors.

Since 2010, I have helped lead the Philadelphia Regional Noyce Partnership (PRNP), a consortium of nine institutions of higher education that work together to recruit, prepare, and support STEM teachers in the Philadelphia region. PRNP recently received a $1.4 million grant from NSF to provide scholarships and other supports for STEM majors preparing to go into teaching in Philadelphia and other high needs districts. Our tag line is “Doing together what we can not do alone” – that by sharing resources and working together, we can be more successful in our work of supporting STEM teachers and their students than we could working separately. Our goal is to make Philadelphia a national leader in STEM teacher preparation.

During the 2017-2018 year, PRNP was funded by NSF to carry out a pilot program for teacher leadership development in Education for Sustainability (EfS). The School District of Philadalphia has a comprehensive sustainability plan, GreenFutures, which calls for including issues of sustainability in the curriculum at all grade levels and in all disciplines. In our pilot project,  14 secondary teachers learned about EfS and developed and taught curricular units incorporating EfS principles. I spoke on this project at the 2018 SIAM national conference.

Continuing the theme of “Doing together what we can not do alone”, I am involved in the Teaching Experience for Undergraduates (TEU) program that provides students from a national network of liberal arts colleges with an in-depth summer experience in math/ science pedagogy combined with a teaching practicuum. Given the small number of students who go into math/science teaching at such colleges, it is rare that any one college has the resources and critical mass of students to provide such a course. By brining students together from multiple institutions, we are able to provide them with a high quality program as well as with a like-mined peer group of students passionate about education.