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Exploration of Hands-On/Minds-On Learning in an Active STEM Outreach Program

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Mathematics Division Technical Session 2

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Aimee Cloutier Texas Tech University

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Aimee Cloutier is a Ph.D. student studying Mechanical Engineering at Texas Tech University. She earned her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Texas Tech in 2012. Her research interests include biomechanics, rehabilitation engineering, prosthetic limb design, and STEM education.

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Jerry Dwyer George Washington University

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Dr. Jerry Dwyer is a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Director of the STEM Academy at George Washington University. He worked for many years in computational mechanics related to fracture, composite materials and glaciology. In recent years, he has focused on issues of mathematical education and outreach and he has developed a wide range of K-12 outreach projects. His current interests include the mathematical education of teachers, the scholarship of outreach, computational mathematics, and complex dynamics.

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Sonya E. Sherrod Texas Tech University Orcid 16x16

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Sonya Sherrod holds a B.S. and an M.A. in mathematics and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction. Her research interests include instructional approaches that help students (K-12) learn mathematics conceptually and instructional strategies that motivate preservice teachers to relearn mathematics conceptually, to empower them to teach mathematics for conceptual understanding. She currently coaches graduate students in the College of Education at Texas Tech University in their dissertation research and writing.

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The importance of encouraging interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in students from underrepresented groups is well recognized. Summer outreach programs are a common means of accomplishing this goal, but balancing program content between information and entertainment can be a challenging issue. Typically, programs include hands-on activities to foster enthusiasm, but these activities do not always promote a deeper understanding of the physical principles involved. Active STEM was a five-day summer program highlighting the mathematics, science, and engineering related to the favorite sports of program participants (middle school males from underrepresented populations in STEM). The objective of Active STEM was to create a fun learning environment that students could enjoy, while still promoting deeper thinking with activities that are both hands-on and minds-on. Program instructors (a mathematics professor, an engineering graduate student, and two sports science graduate students) employed a student-centered classroom approach with program content focusing on the exploration of patterns, engineering principles, and mathematics. A pre-to-post survey was used to measure changes in student interest toward particular areas of STEM. While the participant group was too small for results to be conclusive, an overall increase in interest for STEM topics was documented, particularly in mathematics. Qualitative observations also highlighted the benefits of a classroom atmosphere that emphasized increased instructor-student interaction. These observations also provide insight into the type and amount of activity preferred by students. In general, program participants showed increased engagement in learning when they were allowed substantial time for activity, and they responded best to exploratory problem-solving activities including an engineering design challenge and pattern-based mathematics games. The value of exploratory game playing in the development of mathematical reasoning was clearly observed as well as its role in engaging students from underrepresented groups. It is recommended that future programs of this nature also include a measurement of gains in student critical thinking that result from such game playing.

Cloutier, A., & Dwyer, J., & Sherrod, S. E. (2016, June), Exploration of Hands-On/Minds-On Learning in an Active STEM Outreach Program Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26839

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