Campus News

Professor using NSF grant to teach meaning behind numbers

A way to think about mathematics connects both kindergarten students and high school seniors, whether they’re counting to five, working their way through a complicated algorithm or exploring the world around them.

UGA’s Kevin Moore describes that way to think as quantitative reasoning. He’s using a five-year, $741,492 National Science Foundation grant to increase the use of quantitative reasoning in how math is both learned and taught.

“If you look at most approaches to teaching mathematics, it’s all very numbers-based,” said Moore, an assistant professor in the College of Education’s mathematics and science education department. “Students are playing with numbers all the time. But when those numbers aren’t representative of something to them, they’re just playing with them procedurally, just multiplying and dividing because, ‘Oh, that’s what we do,’ without a deeper understanding. So quantitative reasoning is about putting meaning to the numbers.”

Quantitative reasoning is needed in virtually all academic fields. It is used in most every profession and is necessary for decision-making in everyday life, he said. And yet, it remains largely absent from the teaching and learning of mathematics, particularly at the secondary level.

He wants to build on this knowledge by redesigning a current mathematics education course to focus more on developing future teachers’ quantitative reasoning. He believes the new version of the course can be used as a model by universities and colleges across the nation to prepare more secondary teachers to teach quantitative reasoning in mathematics.

Moore wants his UGA pre-service teachers to help future middle and high school students explore math in a deep way, so that they understand mathematics in ways that benefit their learning and future success.

In addition to providing transformational experiences for 150 pre-service teachers over the five-year life of the grant, the project will influence the pre-service teachers’ future middle and high school students and those teachers with whom they collaborate professionally.