SUMMIT-P: Revising Early-stage College Math

By Katie Haymaker, Co-editor of DUE Point

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Two fundamental challenges of teaching required math courses to students in the first two years of college are (i) engaging students, and (ii) making the mathematics relevant to their future study. Tying the curriculum to the needs of other disciplines can encourage student engagement and also has the potential to rejuvenate the mathematics content of these courses. But where to begin? The SUMMIT-P grant aims to address this question by building on recommendations compiled by the MAA’s Curriculum Foundations Project, a series of disciplinary workshops that began in 1999.

Dr. Bill Haver is Professor Emeritus at Virginia Commonwealth University, and from 2004 – 2010 he served as the chair of the Curriculum Renewal Across the First Two Years (CRAFTY) subcommittee, a subset of the MAA’s Committee on the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics (CUPM). Through his work with the Curriculum Foundations Project, Bill became involved in the SUMMIT-P grant, which he introduces us to in this post.  

How will students and the wider mathematical community benefit from the results of the SUMMIT-P project?

The overall goal of SUMMIT-P is to have a large segment of the national mathematical community respond to the message of the Curriculum Foundations Project, leading to collaborations with faculty from partner disciplines and engaging courses that most effectively prepare students to make use of the mathematics that they study in course work in partner disciplines and within the workplace.

It is our experience that curriculum materials and teaching approaches that are developed collaboratively at multiple institutions and involving faculty from multiple disciplines has a much greater chance of broad scale adaptation and adoption than materials and approaches developed by one or two faculty members working in isolation.

Where did the idea for the SUMMIT-P project originate?

A number of participants in this project were involved in the MAA/CRAFTY Curriculum

Foundations Project that conducted more than 20 weekend conversations with groups of faculty from the various partner disciplines asking these faculty to describe the mathematics and the types of experiences with mathematics that they would like to have provided for majors in their disciplines.

Many of us found the reports from the Curriculum Foundations Project very useful at our own institutions and we wanted this valuable tool to be used across departments nationwide.

NSF grants are competitive - what factors do you think set the SUMMIT-P proposal apart?

Our proposal was made from a set of 10 diverse institutions, including small private colleges, large research universities, HBCUs, community colleges, state supported colleges, and colleges with religious affiliations. The institutions shared common commitments: to collaborate with faculty from partner disciplines in learning communities, to improve student learning through active engagement, and to take seriously the recommendations from disciplinary faculty in the Curriculum Foundations Project. All 10 institutions are committed to sharing these experiences with the national community since we believe that this process is as important as the final curriculum and courses that will be developed.

The SUMMIT-P grant impacts hundreds of faculty and thousands of students. What are some strategies for organizing a project of this scope?

We have a large number of ongoing opportunities for collaboration and mutual support. These opportunities include periodic Webinars exploring different aspects of our work; course clusters among faculty working on the same mathematics courses; annual in-person meetings of project leaders; regular virtual meetings of both a project Management Team and of the Principal Investigators from each institution. Our Evaluation team solicits information and provides instruments to each college. We also are flexible in realizing that not all faculty from each college will participate in every activity.

Of particular value are the extensive site visits included in our work. Over the lifetime of the project each college will be visited three times, and project leaders from each college will participate in visits to three other colleges. The college will be visited by a member of the Management Team, an evaluator and at least one mathematician and one partner disciplinary faculty member from the visiting team. A detailed protocol for organizing and reporting on the visit has been developed.

Editor’s notes: Q&A responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Acknowledgements: Dr. Susan Ganter is the project lead for SUMMIT-P and provided guidance in the creation of this post.

Learn more about NSF DUE 1625244

Full Project Name: Collaborative Research: A National Consortium for Synergistic Undergraduate Mathematics via Multi-institutional Interdisciplinary Teaching Partnerships (SUMMIT-P)

Abstract: https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1625244

Project Website: https://www.summit-p.com/home

Project Principal Investigator: Rhonda Fitzgerald rdfitzgerald@nsu.edu (Principal Investigator); Aprillya Lanz (Former Principal Investigator)

For more information on any of these programs, follow the links, and follow these blog posts! This blog is a project of the Mathematical Association of America, produced with financial support of NSF DUE Grant #1626337.

Katie Haymaker Headshot square.jpg

Katie Haymaker is a co-editor of DUE Point and an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Villanova, where her research interests include coding theory and mastery-based testing in undergraduate mathematics courses.