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Victoria B. Costa

Catalyst for Learning

New Center Launched to Advance Research on Teaching Math and Science

August 25, 2009

By Debra Cano Ramos

In an effort to generate more math and science teachers in the region and nation, the university has been awarded $238,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to create a new center to promote research approaches for increasing educators in these fields.

Congressman Ed Royce (R-Orange) helped to secure the funding for the Catalyst Center for the Advancement of Research in Teaching and Learning Mathematics and Science Education, a collaborative project of the College of Education and the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

The center is being established this fall and is led by Victoria B. Costa, director of science education and professor of secondary education.

The center will be dedicated to bringing together the university’s strengths in studying the teaching and learning of mathematics and science. It will draw upon its strong cadre of faculty members whose teaching and research interests focus on mathematics and science pedagogy, Costa said.

"The highly diverse population in Orange County and the surrounding region also provides a prime opportunity to draw people of varying backgrounds into the math and science fields," Costa added. "Members of these minority populations have been, and continue to be, underrepresented in the mathematics and science workforce."

As a result, research designed to develop approaches for increasing the success of these students in math and the sciences will be of value not only to the region, but also the nation, Costa explained.

Since the 1960s, the number of math and science majors in the U.S. has been dropping, creating a need to boost the country’s talent pool in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines, in order to keep pace with global competitors. Moreover, the number of jobs requiring math and science skills continues to grow.

Faculty experts from both colleges will provide key leadership roles in researching in five major areas: recruitment and preparation of science and math teachers; cyberlearning (using networked computing and communications technologies to support learning) to improve math and science teaching and learning; advancement of research on teaching and learning in science and math education; enriching the professional development and experiences of teachers; and program evaluation on science and math education.

Efforts will include the full spectrum of teaching and learning — from preschool through graduate education, as well as informal education. A collaborative research program will be designed to investigate teaching approaches and student learning in mathematics and the sciences.

Additional funding will be sought to sustain the center during the first year. During the second year, the center is expected to establish collaborations with regional governmental agencies, neighboring educational institutions and members of the private sector.

Catalyst fellows are:
Martin V. Bonsangue, professor of mathematics
Victoria B. Costa, director of science education and professor of secondary education
Mark Ellis, associate professor and chair of secondary education
Cynthia S. Gautreau, assistant professor of elementary and bilingual education
Barbara L. Gonzalez, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry
Maria Grant, associate professor of secondary education
William J. Hoese, associate professor of biological science
Jeffrey R. Knott, associate professor of geological sciences
Michael Loverude, associate professor of physics
Ruth Yopp-Edwards, professor of elementary and bilingual education

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