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Columbia, Maryland, United States

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: AISL | Award Amount: 600.89K | Year: 2015

Most students who pursue math have chosen to do so by high school. Elementary and middle school experiences are thus vitally important in attracting students to STEM. Research consistently points to after-school as a golden opportunity to increase students exposure to high-quality math learning opportunities and to develop the key influencers of math participation and persistence: interest and identity. However, more research on how and under what conditions after-school programs can foster these factors is needed. The role of identity in math education has been particularly neglected. The proposed research project addresses this gap by studying the implementation and outcomes of After-School Math PLUS (ASM+), an after-school math program designed to address all aspects of math identity and thus have a positive effect on this key influencer of math participation and achievement. Improving Math Identity is a Research-in-Service to Practice project funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) Program which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments.

The team will study the impact of ASM+ through a rigorous randomized controlled trial of 30 elementary-level after-school sites in South Carolina serving predominately low-income and minority students (15 treatment using ASM+; 15 control using Mixing in Math). Sites selected into the study must serve fourth and fifth graders and must operate five days a week. Through an implementation study, data will be collected in order to assess the program and understand the experiences of group leaders and students in the ASM+ program and at comparison sites. Data sources include surveys, interviews, observations, and administrative data collected from the treatment and control sites. The study will investigate how and to what extent ASM+ develops fourth and fifth grade students math identity and increases math engagement and interest. It will explore whether increasing identity, engagement, and interest leads to greater skill development and academic achievement.

This research is being conducted by IMPAQ International LLC, a social science and public policy research and evaluation firm in collaboration with Educational Equity at FHI 360, a global development and education organization. The research addresses the need to enhance students math identity at an early age and, as a result, change students educational and career aspirations. The ultimate goal is to broaden participation in STEM by underrepresented groups. Results will inform the development of interventions designed to motivate and retain students in STEM, particularly in informal settings. Knowledge gained from this research will be broadly disseminated to practitioners, researchers, program developers, and policy makers.

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