Montana Models: Connecting Local and Disciplinary Practices through University-Community Partnerships
As part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments, the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants. The three-year project, Montana Models: Connecting Local and Disciplinary Practices through University-Community Partnerships, focuses on creating, implementing, and studying several learning outcomes associated with youth engagement in mathematical modeling contexts. The project builds on existing partnerships between the state's two research universities and Montana 4-H to target outreach to rural youth and bring them into a network of people who can inspire, support, and sustain STEM learning. Middle school and high school students from rural communities will be invited to a university campus for a residential modeling-based summer program l focused on mathematics and mathematical modeling. Activities at the summer program are designed to engage them in problems relevant to their own backgrounds and experiences and to honor their local funds of knowledge.
The primary goal of Montana Models is to use mathematical modeling as a mechanism for bringing everyday mathematical practices already present in rural communities into contact with disciplinary practices. The project focuses on the following research questions: (1) What are the everyday mathematical practices in Montana communities? (2) How can everyday mathematical practices be leveraged and brought into contact with disciplinary practices in service of mathematizing meaningful questions within the community? (3) How do youth identify and get identified with respect to mathematics and with respect to their role in the world? (4) How does participation in project activities affect participants' knowledge of mathematical practices and content? The project uses social design experimentation, a hybrid research methodology which combines the traditions of design-based research with forms of inquiry that involve collaboration among participants, researchers, and other stakeholders, such as critical ethnography. Data sources include field notes from ethnographic observations, interviews, videos of students engaging in modeling activities, artifacts that show their mathematical work, and results from the Attitudes Towards Mathematics Inventory. Through its collaboration with 4-H, Montana Models targets outreach to rural youth across the state, especially those from groups that are typically underrepresented in STEM fields. The project is poised to impact ways in which formal and informal educators understand the knowledge bases that are already present in rural communities and how those bases may inform, support, and sustain STEM learning. Findings and deliverables will be disseminated through a public-facing website and through the 4-H infrastructure. This infrastructure includes Montana 4-H's Clover Communication Contest that will allow participating youth to showcase their projects. Research findings will be shared through local and national conferences and peer-reviewed publications.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
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