I have always been passionate about how children learn and equipping teachers with the tools that would empower them to be more effective teachers. So, when the opportunity to work at The AIMS Center for Math and Science Education at Fresno Pacific University became available, I enthusiastically applied. As a research associate at The AIMS Center, I have the opportunity to work with others and translate research for teachers to implement in their classrooms. There is a vast amount of research now available, but it doesn’t come in the most “user-friendly” format.
Leslie Steffe, Ph.D., wrote the book Children’s Fractional Knowledge. It is an accumulation of 25 years of research. If someone is willing to dedicate that much time to understanding how students “come to know” fractions, I think that it should be translated for classroom teachers to implement. An AIMS research team is currently delving into Steffe’s research on Counting Schemes because we realized it was essential to understanding Children’s Fractional Knowledge. I have learned so much about how children “come to know” the mathematical concepts of number (which includes whole numbers and fractions) and number operations.
In third grade, according to Common Core, teachers are responsible for is “Develop understanding of fractions as numbers.” What does that really mean? Do I really help a student understand that? I can honestly tell you it meant something very different to me one year ago – before I had read Steffe’s research. Steffe articulates some important milestones for students to progress through in order to construct understanding of fractions as numbers. As I am delving into this research, I am realizing how significant it is to develop whole numbers in a way that doesn’t lead to misconceptions about number and then to allow fractions to be identified by the students as numbers. This research truly needs to be accessible to teachers, and I am excited to be a part of a Center that is up for such an important task.