An interdisciplinary team of researchers at Black Hills State University was awarded a $178,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to assess student learning in algebra courses and improve math instruction.

The grant project, “Predictability of Student Attributes and Instructional Milieu on Success in Developmental Math Courses” will be conducted over the next two years. The BHSU researcher team includes:investigator Dr. Lee Pearce, associate professor in the School of Education; along with co-principal investigators Dr. Curtis Card, mathematician and associate vice president for Academic Affairs;  Dr. Daluss Siewert, professor of mathematics and chair of the School of Mathematics and Social Sciences; and Dr. Kristi Pearce, educational psychologist and faculty development specialist. 

This NSF project is the culmination of work begun three years ago by Drs. Card and Siewert to increase pass rates in the basic and intermediate BHSU algebra courses. With several key changes, including the re-structuring of instructional time from three to five hours a week so struggling students could repeat one unit of material and still complete the course during the same semester, pass rates improved significantly.  However, there were still students having difficulty, so the research team was created to investigate the impact of student attributes (e.g., math anxiety, math confidence) on success and the use of specific instructional methods supported by the National Math Advisory Panel and approved by the Institute of Education Sciences as scientifically-based researched practices.

The primary goal of the grant is to measure the impact of these research-based instructional methods in a multi-tiered support model that includes peer tutoring (with math majors and future math teachers).  It will also measure the frequent use of formative assessments to identify students at risk of failing as early as possible to provide additional instructional support. Such supplemental interventions are in addition to instruction in the regular classroom with the intensity, frequency, and duration of instruction increasing as needed to pass the course, while decreasing the student/teacher ratio for more individualized attention. 

This is one of many initiatives that BHSU has in place to advance all levels of math and science education.