Improving Undergraduate Mathematics Education with Interleaving
Effective Years: 2022-2025
This project aims to serve the national interest by enhancing student learning in calculus with a teaching method called interleaving. Unlike the common practice of studying and practicing one topic at a time and them moving to the next topic, interleaving consists in intermixing the study and practice of different topics together. Research conducted in middle school mathematics classrooms shows evidence that interleaving can help improve student learning. Yet, it is currently unknown if similar results can be obtained in college mathematics courses. This project will study how effective interleaving is at improving student learning in the undergraduate calculus classroom. In parallel to the research component, the principal investigator will take part in an intensive professional development plan to expand his knowledge and skills in fundamental theories in mathematics education, qualitative and quantitative methods, and equity in education.
The goal of this project is to determine to what extent interleaving helps students learn calculus. In order to answer this question, blocked and interleaved problem sets will be created for a calculus for life sciences course. Students will be divided into two groups, one using interleaving homework sets and the other one using blocked homework sets. Using a cross-over design, the groups will switch from one type of homework to the other type half-way through the term. Learning will be measured by scores on unannounced tests as well as scores on midterm and final exams, and supported through interviews with students to ensure validity. The scores will be analyzed for the class as a whole and also disaggregated by demographic groups. This project will advance our understanding of the extent to which interleaving can help students learn calculus. The project is supported by NSF's EHR Core Research Building Capacity in STEM Education Research (ECR: BCSER) program, which is designed to build investigators’ capacity to carry out high-quality STEM education research.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.