Stohlmann seeks to improve perceptions of mathematics
Micah Stohlmann, a current doctoral candidate in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction (C&I) at the University of Minnesota, serves as a Research Assistant with the STEM Education Center as a Haugo Fellow.
Stohlmann's interest in mathematics developed early. He enjoyed his education, and thought that mathematics made a lot of sense as a model of how the world works. He realized that through teaching, he could help others learn to use math in their everyday life. Stohlmann sought to teach mathematics in a way that makes it accessible and less intimidating.
After teaching for two years, Stohlmann earned his masters degree at the University of Minnesota. He then taught for two more years and then returned to get his doctoral degree. STEM became an important focus for him as a teacher, as he saw firsthand that STEM integration made concepts more practical and allowed students to connect the information to their everyday lives. Stohlmann gained an interest in elementary education in mathematics specifically after he was given an opportunity by Dr. Kathy Cramer to teach a unit based on conceptual understanding of functions in a C&I course. Currently, he teaches preservice teachers in C&I courses and classroom teachers through the Math and Science Teacher Academies project. This enables him to learn what issues teachers are dealing with and what needs to be improved upon from a research perspective. He believes that being better connected to practitioners allows his research to be more relevant and impactful.
His experience teaching preservice elementary teachers in C&I has led him to his dissertation topic, which is focused on exploring the impact of a mathematics and pedagogy class on preservice teachers' beliefs about mathematics and conceptual content knowledge. Stohlmann's dissertation research will involve one class of 30 Elementary Education Foundations majors this fall. His research is centered on the framework that mathematics should be learned through multiple solution strategies, problem solving, reasoning and justification, real world relevancy, through multiple representations, and in a social context where students collaboratively construct their knowledge. Stohlmann believes that it is important for students to be empowered to develop and share their own solutions and strategies.
His research asks preservice teachers to consider the following questions:
• What is mathematics?
• Who is good at mathematics?
• What is the role of the mathematics teacher?
• What experiences have shaped your beliefs about the teaching and learning of mathematics?
Stohlmann learned more about his research and teaching interests through attending and presenting at national mathematics, science, and engineering conferences, as well through work on National Science Foundation funded research projects with Dr. Tamara Moore.
Stohlmann believes that it is important to make teachers feel comfortable and confident with their content knowledge before their first year of teaching. He believes it is vital to properly prepare preservice teachers so that their future elementary students will enjoy and have success in mathematics because every year students fall behind it becomes more difficult for them to catch up.
In the future, Stohlmann plans to continue preparing teachers and incorporating STEM education in K-12 classrooms. He also hopes to incorporate more statistics into K-12 classes in the hopes of helping students develop valuable critical thinking and statistical literacy skills that help students be wise consumers of information. He has written a children's book called, Bears and Baseball, to develop statistical and technological literacy in children. For more information visit the Bears and Baseball website.
Finally, Stohlmann believes that by incorporating integrated STEM education into classrooms, the social skills learned by students through cooperative learning will be able to benefit them throughout their lives. Through these mechanisms, Stohlmann plans to continue to positively impact STEM education through his work with teachers and students.