Richard Luczak, a Niagara University senior majoring in social studies and mathematics education (grades 5-12), presented his honors thesis research April 7 at the 2018 Hudson River Undergraduate Mathematics Research Conference, which was held at St. Lawrence University.
Luczak, who is an Honors student at Niagara University, was Western New York’s lone representative at the annual conference. His research examined math modeling and how it can be used to positively impact high school students’ problem-solving and critical thinking skills. An in-depth study of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) was also conducted to suggest recommendations as to how to incorporate more math modeling into the current curriculum.
Among Luczak’s findings:
- In general, more math modeling needs to be incorporated into the curriculum. The NextGenEd Standards provide for additional time to accomplish this, due to removing some concepts from the current curriculum and giving teachers more flexibility in instruction. Educational research has shown that classroom activities and learning segments that incorporate math modeling better serve students and support student learning outcomes.
- Teachers should try to incorporate some type of math modeling in every unit and every class – “Yes, even calculus!” Luczak said. Educators can scaffold the problem to suit the needs of the lesson or material they want the students to focus on and utilize to produce a solution. Using math modeling will lead to higher rates of comprehension and understanding and, consequently, higher test scores. These are great ways to assess student knowledge of the concepts being discussed in class because they are applying what they learned in the classroom to real-world situations and thinking logically and holistically.
- Math modeling is the way of the future. With the NextGenEd Standards coming for full implementation by 2020 and the continued focus on college/career readiness for the students of New York state, math modeling is both an appropriate and meaningful way for students to engage with the material and, ultimately, produce primary evidence of their thinking and learning.
“With math modeling, students can identify with the situations they’re presented and see how the math they learn in the classroom is utilized in our everyday lives,” Luczak noted. “This is very powerful!”
“Richard has done an excellent job of using his entire educational experience at NU to make an interdisciplinary, holistic assessment of current math education, and conduct meaningful research to support his teaching philosophy,” said Dr. Maritza Branker, chair of the university’s mathematics department and Luczak’s Honors thesis advisor. “I am extremely proud to be his thesis advisor and was thrilled to have him represent us at the Hudson River Undergraduate Mathematics Research Conference.”
One of the reviewers of Luczak’s presentation at the conference was Dr. Jeff McLean, a teaching postdoctoral fellow from St. Lawrence University whose research is specific to math modeling and designing related problems. He concurred with the information presented in the 15-minute talk based on Luczak’s research.
“It is significant and speaks to the extremely high quality of Richard’s research that a scholar with Dr. McLean’s expertise in the field agreed with Richard’s findings,” said Dr. Michael Barnwell, associate professor of philosophy and director of NU’s Honors program.
The Hudson River Undergraduate Mathematics Research Conference is a one-day mathematics conference held each spring semester at rotating institutions, and attended by students and faculty from various universities and colleges in New York and New England. Its first meeting was held in 1994 at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y.
Niagara University’s Honors program provides curricular support to high-performing students by offering smaller, “Honors-only” sections of courses in which alternative pedagogies and close interaction between professors and students are encouraged. By means of a yearlong Honors thesis, program participant conducts original research while working individually with a member of NU’s faculty. Additional information can be found at www.niagara.edu/honors.