Framing Research on Activities as Mathematical Experiences
This Innovations in Development project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which 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. This Pilot and Feasibility study will investigate strategies for enhancing the mathematics in museum-based making and tinkering activities and lay the foundation for a full research study on broadening family participation in mathematics through making. This proposal builds directly on the NSF-funded Math in the Making convening. During this convening, questions about how to authentically highlight and enhance the mathematics in making and tinkering experiences, and how different math-enhancement approaches might influence learner experiences and outcomes, emerged as critical issues for researchers, educators, and mathematicians alike. The project aims to provide a practical lens to help researchers and educators connect topics across STEM with making and tinkering experiences. The project also seeks to advance theoretical understandings of museum-based learning by exploring ways that activity design and facilitation strategies influence how visitors understand the nature and goals of the experience and, in turn, how these visitor experiences shape learning outcomes. The project is designed to explore the most promising of these math-enhancement strategies in more depth, to propose as a next project and develop a theoretical framework for understanding and describing how these strategies influence how families understand and engage with the mathematics in maker experiences. Through several culturally-responsive approaches developed in collaboration with community-based organizations, the project will research how mathematics in maker experiences influences participant engagement and learning. The project will culminate in the design of a research study. Reports and resources developed by the project will be broadly disseminated to researchers, mathematicians, and educators. 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.