FIU receives $1.49 million to transform how calculus is taught

FIU’s STEM Transformation Institute has received a $1.49 million grant from the National Science Foundation to improve student success in calculus.

In partnership with Broward College, FIU will implement active, hands-on learning in calculus courses. The transformation will include a student-centered curriculum that involves working in teams using Learning Assistants — undergraduate students who help their peers interact with and discuss the material.

By Fall 2021, this new curriculum will be available to all students taking Calculus I at FIU.

“We’re targeting calculus as it is a vital course for future STEM majors,” said institute Director Laird Kramer who is the principal investigator on the grant. “Calculus is the study of change, so learners need to understand how to analyze change by replicating the practices of mathematicians to learn calculus.”

FIU has found success implementing new approaches to teaching in college algebra, precalculus and finite math improving pass rates and retention. Faculty engagement has been a key component. The Mathematics and Statistics Department at FIU has devised a team approach, allowing for cross-collaborations on common issues and challenges. Special workshops designed to arm the professors with new, evidence-based teaching methods have been instrumental in this success.

“Next Spring we will have nine trial Calculus I sections and many faculty who have always taught in a traditional way are interested in teaching these sections,” said Laura De Carli chair of the Mathematics and Statistics Department. “Calculus I is a crucial class for STEM majors. We expect that the new way of teaching and learning pioneered by Dr. Kramer will dramatically improve our students’ learning outcomes and their success at FIU.”

Faculty in the STEM Transformation Institute will help faculty at Broward College implement the curriculum, hoping to gain insights into how to improve materials that will translate to other institutions. The project is designed to obtain measures of student success over time and track those students who transfer from Broward College to FIU – two Hispanic Serving Institutions where more than 80 percent of students are from historically under-represented groups.

The grant is part of the National Science Foundation’s Improving Undergraduates STEM Education: Hispanic Serving Institutions Program to enhance undergraduate STEM education and build capacity at Hispanic Serving Institutions.