MTSU Professor Visits Hellstern

Hellstern Middle School Partners with MTSU 

Math and Science teachers at Hellstern Middle School are partnering with researchers and teacher educators from Middle Tennessee State University to develop new ways to teach data and statistics. The partnership grew out of research and innovative teaching that Tammy Skelton participated in with Dr. Richard Lehrer from Vanderbilt University for over ten years. This partnership is now supported by a five year grant from the National Science Foundation to fund teacher training, classroom technology and materials, and research on students’ learning. The MTSU team is led by Dr. Seth Jones, one of Dr. Lehrer’s former students, and involves graduate students with decades of experience in middle and high school classrooms and outdoor education.

The math and science teachers at Hellstern have worked for a number of years to engage their students with data in response to changes in standards and a growing need for both data science professionals and a data literate society. This project will support those efforts by helping math and science teachers consider how their curriculum and teaching can be coordinated in order to support students to see connections across these disciplines, and to better understand the interdisciplinary nature of working with data to understand the natural world.

The teachers participate in summer workshops each year to develop new content knowledge and teaching strategies, and engage in planning meetings and professional development sessions throughout the school year. This year the 6th grade science teachers spent time observing their math teacher colleagues to better understand how students learn about graphing. Then they will use insights from these observations to develop strategies for students to make connections between these lessons and investigations in science class. The students will be conducting ecological investigations in science class in a 40 x 40 fenced area that has been growing wild since July 2020. This “wild space” will provide opportunities for students to use their new data analysis skills to conduct ecology investigations.

The teachers and researchers in this partnership will be working to develop new curricular plans and materials for Hellstern Middle School, but also for other middle schools interested in coordinating math and science teaching about data. The research will also create evidence about how students think in these lessons, how teachers can support them, and how students might better see connections between math and science in middle schools.

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