Mathematics Student Spotlight: Heather Gould, Mathematics Education, Ph. D.By mst • Jan 30th, 2013 • Category: Mathematics Education
Heather Gould is a fourth-year Ph. D. student in the Mathematics Education program. She grew up in Stone Ridge, a small town in Ulster County, New York. She attended the University at Albany – SUNY and earned a bachelor’s degree with a double major in mathematics and anthropology. She also earned two master’s degrees from SUNY Albany, one in mathematics and the other in curriculum development and instructional technology.
Soon after, she started working on a research project entitled “National Study of Writing Instruction” at SUNY Albany, where she was a research assistant and mathematics adviser. She tutored at SUNY Ulster in their mathematics lab and taught college courses at SUNY Ulster, Dutchess Community College, and Hudson Valley Community College.
She then continued her academic career by attending TC. The faculty in the mathematics education program at TC have a range of expertise and Heather knew that, wherever her studies led her, she would have a faculty member to guide her. This and the location of TC in New York City, where she has always wanted to live, were the major contributing factors to Heather attending TC.
Heather has been offered various opportunities to work with faculty in the mathematics program at TC. Professor Vogeli emphasizes student publications, and Heather recalls, “every time he offered me an opportunity to publish or gave me an idea to publish I tried to do so.” In addition to support with publication endeavors, she has been able to work with faculty to continue to do research in mathematics education.
Heather is beginning her fourth year of doctoral studies in mathematics education. She has written the first few chapters of her dissertation and has begun to collect data. She states, “my first couple of chapters are decent works, the literature review is never done … I am currently collecting data.”
Heather began with the intent of studying mathematics language acquisition but her knowledge of the current needs in mathematics education research has grown and with it, her interests have evolved. She is currently studying how teachers understand mathematical modeling, particularly with reference to the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. “With the introduction of Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, new emphasis has been placed on mathematical modeling. Unfortunately very few teachers seem to have a complete grasp of what mathematical modeling is…. That’s not a knock on teachers. That’s just the state of what has been taught before and what has not been taught,” she says.
Her academic interests outside of those she researches are mathematics manipulatives, mathematical language acquisition, and ethnomathematics (the study of how different cultures perceive mathematics).
Heather was the chair of the editorial board for the Teachers College Mathematical Modeling Handbook, which is a Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications (COMAP) publication. The handbook was written and completed within the Mathematics Education program as a response to the release of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and its call for mathematical modeling. This was the beginning of her interest in mathematical modeling. She believes this has been the largest project that she has been involved with at TC.
She was given the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for both Professor Pollak and Professor Garrity. While assisting Dr. Garrity, she worked with pre-service and in-service elementary teachers, addressing the development of their mathematical content knowledge. Heather was able to learn more about teaching elementary mathematics, how elementary teachers understand mathematics, their difficulties with the subject, and what can be done to address those difficulties.
Heather is currently co-teaching an experimental mathematical modeling workshop with Dr. Pollak. The focus of the course is twofold: for the participants, it is to learn about mathematical modeling, with a particular emphasis on the process of modeling; for her and Dr. Pollak, the purpose is to see how teachers react to mathematical modeling and how teachers feel after completing mathematical modeling activities, with particular emphasis on the activities found within the COMAP handbook. The general goal is for the participants to feel comfortable teaching mathematical modeling and to learn how to teach mathematical modeling better. “The great thing about teaching teachers is that they are always able to give you good criticism about what you can do better, so they in turn learn better,” Heather says.
Heather recently completed an exciting mathematics course with the Summer Institute for the Gifted After School program, teaching sports statistics to 6th – 8th grade gifted students. She developed an investigative, real-world curriculum in which students were given the opportunity to develop their very own statistic for the sport of their choice. Gifted students from all over the city chose to participate in the course. At the end of the course, the students presented their statistical work to their parents giving oral reports. The parents were very pleased by the work that their children had completed within this program and they showed their admiration at the end of the presentations with roaring applause. This was a heart-warming experience for Heather and she hopes to teach in this program again in the future.
Heather was the editor for the Spring-Summer 2012 issue of the Mathematics Education program journal, the Journal of Mathematics Education at Teachers College. Each issue has a special focus theme, with assessment being the theme of the Spring-Summer 2012 issue. In addition to that, she has played a small role as an adviser for the Teachers College Handbook on Mathematical Modeling Assessment that will be published by COMAP in the near future.
Over the summer, Professor Walker offered Heather the opportunity to work as a curriculum developer on an interdisciplinary curriculum project entitled Understanding Fiscal Responsibility. The project includes lessons in mathematics, economics, civics, history, and government. She helped to develop and write some of the mathematics lessons intended to help students understand and look critically at the federal budget and national debt.
After completing her degree, Heather hopes to continue her research as a professor of mathematics or mathematics education and to provide professional development for teachers on mathematical modeling. She states, “I haven’t taught college classes in a while and I miss it.”
She is an active member of National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), attends conferences regularly, and has published in NCTM’s elementary education journal, Teaching Children Mathematics.
Aside from her busy academic schedule, Heather enjoys spending time with her fiancé and her two pets. She is also an avid fan of baseball and the New York Mets, in particular; she watches most games and attends them when she is able. Heather enjoys building with LEGO bricks and would eventually like to own an educational toy store.
By Deiana Jackson, Graduate Student, Mathematics Education Ed.D.