CADRE fellow is a crusader for statistical literacy for teachers

By

Erik Ketcherside

Amanda Riske (BA ’03), a PhD student in the Learning, Literacies and Technologies program at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, was named a fellow of the Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education. She is one of 10 fellows for 2020–21 from universities across the U.S. The CADRE fellows program provides professional growth opportunities for early career researchers whose work centers on diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM education. CADRE is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Riske earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Secondary Education (mathematics) from ASU in 2003. Before returning for her PhD she taught math in Norway, Germany, China and Washington, D.C., and developed a curriculum for a traveling school. While in Norway she earned her Master of Philosophy degree in Comparative International Education from the University of Oslo.

Riske shares her thoughts about the fellowship and how it will benefit her research.

How were you selected for the fellowship?

AR: CADRE applicants must be associated with a National Science Foundation Discovery Research pre-K–12 project. My advisor, Steven Zuiker, is the principal investigator on the “The School Gardeners' Southwest Desert Almanac: A Conference for Supporting, Sustaining and Spreading Garden-Based Science Teaching.” He encouraged me to apply and supported my application with a letter of recommendation.

What’s your own research interest?

My dissertation focuses on the creation of a professional development handbook for math teachers on statistical literacy, an interest that comes from my own experience as a math teacher, as well as from the need within society for using data in our daily lives. Technological advances, data exposure and production is pervasive, yet its dynamic contextualization is not widely reflected or adapted within K–12 education. Often, resources available to teachers consist of contrived data sets devoid of context and activities requiring students to collect data of no consequence to them. While a majority of U.S. states adopted a K–12 curriculum incorporating data and statistics, this is rarely reflected in teacher education pre-service opportunities and in-service education opportunities.

Because there is limited research on how to develop teachers’ statistical literacy, my proposed dissertation project will result in a statistical literacy professional development handbook for K–12 educators that seeks to address the current gap by developing and testing relevant professional development for teachers. Upon completion of this project and through my experience as a CADRE fellow, I will be prepared to apply for subsequent funding with the National Science Foundation to implement the fully developed handbook with teacher educators at the school and district levels. 

The CADRE fellowship centers around diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM. How did that come to be an interest of yours?

Those areas are central to my practice as a learner, educator and researcher. As a learner, I love to learn about cultures through learning languages, exposure to art and traveling as well as how they value mathematics and where mathematics is visible (whether named or not). I started learning Spanish in high school to connect more with a close friend’s Argentine family, which also opened me up to learn more about the diversity in language and culture of Spanish speaking populations. To learn more about my own cultural background I took Norwegian courses at ASU, then lived and studied in Oslo for three years, ultimately completing my master’s in comparative international education at the University of Oslo. Living in Norway allowed me to experience learning a language in personal and professional contexts, with the joys and frustrations that accompany that experience. It instilled in me empathy toward people, and especially my students, who are learning additional languages.

As an educator, it reminded me that language is not the only way for people to express and communicate knowledge, and it was important for me to put all students in positions to succeed and to master the math content. This involved understanding the educational systems my students were coming from (I mainly taught at international schools), using a range of instructional tools when representing information, and working with their language teachers for additional support; all in an effort to make sure all my students had access to the mathematical content. I think these practices also benefited all of my students and worked toward establishing a learning community within the classroom.

The students I taught while working at schools in Norway, Germany, China, and the U.S. represented over 60 different nationalities. Exposure to my students’ cultures gave me an urgency to develop curricula that include worldviews of mathematics that move beyond the typical male-eurocentric narrative. I wanted my students to see themselves and their backgrounds within mathematics and develop an appreciation for their host nation’s contributions to the field of mathematics and perspective of mathematics.

What do you hope to gain from the fellowship? What about it are you really looking forward to?

The fellowship will provide an atmosphere for me to contribute to the scholarship of professional development in the area of statistical education by sharpening my skills as a researcher in STEM, expanding my professional network, learning about future research opportunities with the National Science Foundation, and giving me the confidence to apply. In particular, the CADRE orientation, webinars, and access to researchers in NSF’s Discovery Research preK-12 program, or DRK-12, will provide valuable feedback on proposal writing and implementing projects as I prepare for a career in STEM research and education. I am also interested in learning more about the exploratory, design and development, impact, and implementation and improvement DKR-12 projects that focus on teachers.

I am especially looking forward to meeting other graduate students from around the country and hopefully building professional relationships with them that can evolve into thought partnerships or future collaborations. 

What are your career plans?

It’s difficult to project which jobs will be available in the next two years due to the pandemic, but my professional goal is to work with K–12 teachers within the context of statistical literacy. This can be done through universities, research institutions, school districts and schools, or within informal educational spaces. The CADRE fellowship and network can help me craft creative solutions around approaching the unpredictable job market, while still impacting STEM education in positive and sustainable ways.

Learn more about the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College PhD in Learning, Literacies and Technologies.