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Hands-On Math Lessons Seek to Ignite Interest in STEM

With the support of Tickle College of Engineering (TCE), Jeneva Clark, senior lecturer in the UT department of mathematics and Tabatha Rainwater, a math teacher from Austin-East Magnet High School, began a hands-on math project called the Chem-E-Car. Activities have been implemented at Austin-East, igniting interest in STEM fields for a broad and more diverse audience.

The Chem-E-Car activity has been used as an outreach and recruitment project since 2010. However, when Jalonda Thompson from the TCE Office of Diversity Programs and Clark brainstormed about ways to build stronger community connections, it was apparent what the missing link was. Because Jeneva regularly conducts professional development for K-12 math teachers, she knew that preparing resources that align this engineering activity to K-12 mathematics standards and demonstrating it for teachers would make a broader impact on the community and on students. A partnership with an Austin-East practicing teacher was a natural and mutually beneficial. Clark and Rainwater co-developed, co-implemented and co-disseminated the work.

An outcome of this partnership is that, Austin-East Magnet School was awarded a classroom grant for the purchase of K’NEX for hands-on math activities, such as chem-e-cars, from the Tennessee Mathematics Teachers Association (TMTA). A Chem-E-Cars lesson was demonstrated for secondary teachers and teacher educators at a state TMTA meeting recently. More lessons that allow students to prove geometric theorems with their hands, using K’NEX, will be shared with teachers at a regional National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) meeting.

The Chem-E-Cars math lessons will also be utilized in an NSF-funded teacher-training program under the leadership of Lynn Hodge and in a KIDS U summer camp, furthering community connections with the university.