RU and NASA team up to enrich math curricula for Virginia’s high school teachers and students

RU Master's Candidates on the set of NASA's Distancel Learning Network

Dawn Hakkenberg (left) and Betty Jo Williams (right), two RU Math Education Math Education Content Area Studies graduate students, on the set of the distance learning studio at NASA's Langley Research Center during an engineering and mathematics MODSIM workshop recently.

NASA Langley Research Center and Radford University sponsored a two-week simulation-based engineering and science MODSIM (modeling and simulation) workshop for high school mathematics teachers in Hampton in July.

"This elite professional development opportunity provided high school mathematics teachers from across Virginia with exciting opportunities to learn how to inspire their students with the innovative aerospace engineering applications currently used by NASA engineers," said Laura Jacobsen, associate professor of education, about the experience from which the teachers-turned-students will develop their own standards-based lesson plans and instructional products for use at their schools.

The 16 high school math teachers worked with NASA research scientists and mathematicians under the tutelage of nationally recognized educator Diana Fisher and NASA Aerospace Education Specialist Marilé Colón Robles. According to Kimberly M. Brush, NASA Langley’s director of educational professional development, "the workshop is part of NASA's effort to build national awareness of simulation-based engineering and science as a critical national technology and as means of adding additional 'theory-based practice' to high school mathematics."

"The Langley Research Center is an exciting, vibrant and lively place with bright and capable people who shared their passion for what they are doing and brought it to our level," said Dawn Hakkenberg, an Algebra I teacher at Roanoke's Patrick Henry High School and graduate student in RU's Math Education Content Area Studies program.  "They really made us feel like celebrities."

RU Master's Candidate Muhammad Khan in the NASA Langley Research Center's 757 flight simulator

Muhammad Khan, a master's candidate in the RU Math Education Math Education Content Area Studies program, pilots a 757 in the flight simulator at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hamption, Va., during the recent two-week MODSIM (modeling and simulation) workshop.

During their NASA immersion, the teachers - six of whom are candidates in RU's master's-level math education program - saw how NASA Langley engineers and scientists use modeling and simulation to solve some of the nation’s most important and challenging problems that require multi-disciplinary and collaborative solutions while developing their own skills and experience in the fast-evolving field.

"I really appreciate the opportunity to become familiar with a system that will help my students understand math in a different way," said Hakkenberg. "I look forward to implementing this real 21st century way of thinking for them and my colleagues in other disciplines."

Modeling and simulation is the use of computer-based models either statically or over time, to develop data as a basis for making managerial or technical decisions. During the NASA MODSIM workshop, the cohort developed their own basic models and studied the application of MODSIM to the real-world challenges faced by NASA.  The teachers gained hands-on experience through one-on-one interaction with NASA Langley engineers and scientists and by visiting some of the facilities where MODSIM is used extensively, such as one of the flight simulators, the Digital Learning Network Lab and the Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory.

The partnership with NASA, funded by a grant from the Virginia Department of Education with co-Project Investigators Jacobsen and Agida Manizade, is one of several initiatives RU is undertaking to enhance math education through its RU's Math Education Content Area Studies program. The 36-hour program is for licensed secondary mathematics teachers, students with an undergraduate degree in a mathematics education licensure program and prospective college/university mathematics instructors.

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Aug 12, 2013
Don Bowman
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