2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 9-14
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM


PYLE, Eric J., Department of Geology & Environmental Science, James Madison University, MSC 6903, Harrisonburg, VA 22807 and COURTIER, Anna M., Science Outreach Coordinator, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 115 Upham Hall, Whitewater, WI 53190

A two-fold curricular dilemma has emerged in Virginia mathematics and science education, such that annual high-stakes testing in mathematics have driven teachers to develop nearly context-free instruction. Earth science instruction has been viewed as less rigorous class that can be skipped in favor of “advanced” sciences. The MAESTRO (Mathematics And Earth Science Teachers’ Resource Organization) partnership began as a 2-year pilot project funded by NSF (GEO-1202907). Faculty in geology and mathematics at James Madison University worked with middle and high school teachers from four schools to develop integrated math/Earth science approach to instruction. MAESTRO teachers worked in school-based pairs to bring concrete Earth systems-based examples into their classes, supported by mathematical models. Teachers committed to 2 years, using Year 1 to develop integration between their classes and identifying obstacles to implementation. In Year 2, teachers refined their lessons while implementing local site-based case studies to provide a local context for instruction. Across both years, teachers documented their collaborative work through personal portfolios as well as tying their MAESTRO work to their annual performance goals.

Where MAESTRO was fully implemented, initial evaluation results showed statistically significant positive changes in students’ confidence in mathematics and science abilities, while attitudes towards mathematics and Earth science integration showed similar changes. Site-based case studies proved to be useful, but have also had an unanticipated public outreach impact. Focus group discussions revealed that teachers observed regular and fluid cross-curricular connections by their students, with an increased level of engagement in both courses. All of the teachers in the project reported that their teaching practice has been changed, such that their approaches to instruction are influenced by both mathematics and Earth science content. Continued analysis of late project data, including standardized test results, are expected to yield similar positive results. As the project staff begin to work from the proof-of-concept to a regional scale-up project, the potential to strongly influence the practice of mathematics and Earth science instruction in Virginia is evident.