Graduate Research for MAT (Cohort V students)    Math 5396 (CRN 21456)

WELCOME!  ¡BIENVENIDOS!              Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Description from Graduate Catalog:  “A written report on an appropriate subject in mathematics or statistics is required.  May not be counted towards the 24 hours of course work in the thesis option, but may be substituted for three hours of thesis credit [e.g., Math 5398].  May not be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: Instructor approval.” 


Meetings:  We officially have available Tuesdays and Thursdays 5-6:20pm in Bell Hall 130A.  Because of the small size, individualized nature, and evolving needs of this course, however, we will explore the possibility of moving to a more flexible hybrid or modified format in which we would generally have one in-person 5pm meeting each week.  (Also, we will resolve soon which of the multiple possibilities for our finals week meeting we will use, taking into account conflicts with teacher work hours and any other UTEP classes.)  We will structure meeting times to make an appropriate balance between individualized attention and group forums that allow all of us to discuss shared challenges and work on new concepts and skills.  Eating is okay in Bell 130A if it’s not distracting or messy, but is not allowed in the adjacent computer lab. 


Instructor:  Assoc. Prof. Dr. Larry Lesser (rhymes with “professor”, spelled like “<”)  

I began teaching (especially statistics!) university classes in 1988, and I’ve also worked in Texas as a state agency statistician and as a full-time high school teacher!  I’ve served on national editorial and research advisory boards.  More info and resources are at:  (FYI:  from there, click “SCHEDULE” and you can access this syllabus if you ever misplace yours or want to explore its links directly). 


How to reach me:  my official Bell Hall 213 office hours will start off as Mon 4-4:50 & by appointment, with additional hours and changes to be announced/posted; also, feel free to ask me (or leave me) questions by phone (747-6845; “SIR-OUIJA”) or email (Lesser (at); when you email, please include “Monday class” in the subject line).  It’s my job and privilege to serve you and provide guidance so no need for you to wait a week until our next class meeting to get a question answered.  (In fact, I may send an email to the whole class in between some meetings to offer additional information or materials, so check your email regularly.) For your protection, emailed inquiries about confidential information such as grades must be from your UTEP account and accompanied by your 800 number.


Textbook: Readings will be assigned from the literature, but no required textbook to buy.


Grades:  determined by the usual cutoffs of 90, 80, 70, 60.  The exact percentages are subject to refinement upon agreement by everyone (i.e., the instructor and all students).

Homework (15%):  these include intermediate assignments such as short written reflections or article reviews or in-class discussion facilitations or presentations (see resources for giving oral presentations).


Presentation of Research Paper (25%):  You will give an oral presentation of your paper at or before our finals week meeting under time constraints to be announced.  The presentation (i.e., visual aids, spoken content, and responses to questions) will be assessed on clarity and appropriateness for the audience. See tips for oral presentations.


Attendance:  Subject to change if required by UTEP policy, your final course average will have 1.5 – 3U – E points added to it, where U = number of unexcused absences and E = number of excused absences.  This reflects how crucial participation and attendance are for this kind of interactive, beyond-the-book course, but without penalizing someone who has rare (excused) absences.  (See section on Attendance for more information)


Quizzes:  any quizzes (whether announced or unannounced) will be taken into account only if your final average falls a point below a letter grade cutoff (i.e., they can only help)


Research Paper (60%): Subject to modification by instructor, the paper is due to the instructor 5 calendar days before your oral presentation. The paper must be on a topic approved by the instructor that is connected to the teaching and learning of math (or statistics) and involves empirical data that the student collects and analyzes (typically, in their own classroom, but non-teachers may work with existing data from others with prior faculty approval), with all needed IRB/approvals in place before data is collected.

This paper and all other written assignments should be word processed with double-spacing and a standard 12-point font (e.g., Times New Roman), checked for spelling/grammar, and have any appropriate output/graphics electronically pasted into the document.  Sections should be clearly marked, assembled in order, and stapled (not put into a folder or sleeve) with a meaningfully-titled identification coversheet on top.


The paper must contain these sections (in this order):

abstract of 100-200 words (including purpose and main results),

introduction (“statement of the problem”, including the purpose and importance of your study and its guiding research questions and theoretical/conceptual framework; include delimitations[how the project topic was deliberately “narrowed” and how this may impact external validity]; define any complex terms; also include any prior pilot study work you did), literature review (appropriately taking into account relevant literature within and beyond mathematics education; see literature search tools later in this syllabus), procedures/design/methodology (in at least enough detail to allow for replication; make sure its clear how it follows from the preceding two sections; describe the population and sample, the data collection and instrumentation; explain how you addressed validity),

results (and interpretation of the data; be sure to include triangulation) and

discussion (making conclusions that are supported by your results; stating limitations[flaws or constraint limitations in design and how this may impact internal validity]; offering suggestions for future work). 

bibliography section with referencing style that follows APA (American Psychological Association, 5th edition) with appropriate and complete citations, even for websites and people you consult.  Consult, do a Google search for ‘APA style’, see Ch. 8 of Hendricks’ Improving Schools through Action Research, etc.

Appendices (e.g., data collection instruments such as questionnaires and interview questions)


Academic Integrity:  As teachers, you especially appreciate that cheating, plagiarism and collusion in dishonest activities are serious acts which erode the university’s purpose and integrity and cheapen the learning experience for us all. Don’t resubmit work completed for other classes without specific acknowledgment and permission from me.  It is expected that work you submit will represent your own effort (or your own group’s effort, if it is a group project), will not involve copying from or accessing unauthorized resources or people (e.g., from a previous year’s class).  You must cite references that you do consult, using APA style (American Psychological Association, 5th edition) with complete citations even for websites and people you consult:   Violations of the UTEP policy ( may lead to disciplinary action from the Dean of Students (see course #20004 at

For Group Work:  Within a group, members are allowed to divide up subsets of the project for which individuals will take the initial responsibility for coordinating efforts, but it is assumed that by the time a group turns in a writeup that all members have read, discussed, and understand all parts of what is being turned in.  Group members may even discuss general ideas and strategies with members of other groups, but NOT share parts of actual written work.  At a minimum, to be safe, put away all written notes and writing materials and recording devices before having any intergroup conversations.  And if you still see a “gray area,” play it safe and ask the instructor!


Professionalism and Civility:   Along with basic standards of civility and citizenship (e.g., “Student Conduct” and “Disruptive Acts Policy” in the UTEP Catalog), students in this course are required to exhibit professionalism and to support a constructive, collegial, collaborative classroom culture where critique is focused respectfully on the intellectual merit of a position, not on the person expressing it.  You are also expected to use great discretion with cell phones and pagers during class time—if you are truly expecting an urgent call, please let me know and sit near the door to minimize disruption (and have your phone on “vibrate” instead of loud music, and have it handy so you don’t have to dig through a backpack for it).  Or you could give your family member or child care provider the phone number for the Bell Hall ACES lab station: 747-8814.   That way, you can keep your phone off during class, knowing that staff can quickly get you for a true emergency.

Finally, be open to local opportunities for professional growth and sharing.  For example, consider attending or presenting at the UTEP COE annual Summer Research Conference (currently, July 20-21).  Also, encourage K-12 students to develop their research skills by entering their local science fair or the ASA Poster Competitions (by April 1: And consider joining (at cheaper rates while you’re a student!) math ed professional organizations at the local (GEPCTM), state (TCTM), or national levels (NCTM or ASA). 


Attendance:  Attendance is required and taken each meeting using a sign-in sheet and is very important considering that we meet only once a week and much of this course involves beyond-the-book group activities or discussions that are virtually impossible to recreate on one’s own.  The instructor may count late arrival, early departure, or blatant nonparticipation as a half-absence or even a full absence, depending on what is missed.  If you miss an exam without a documented strong excuse (e.g., a doctor’s note) relayed to me at the earliest opportunity, the score will be a 0. In general (out of fairness and logistics), late work will not be accepted and may be subject to a penalty in the rare case that it is. 

It’s your responsibility to….

(1) Sign the attendance sheet each day you attend

(2) Let me know by email (Lesser (at) or voicemail (747-6845) or daytime math dept. fax (747-6502) at the earliest opportunity if you have a situation which may affect a test, major assessment deadline, or multiple regular class meetings.  

(3) Give me a written note or email by the 15th day of the semester (Mon, Feb. 9) if you will have absence for religious holy days (which are excused, of course).  

(4) Give me a written note or email at the earliest opportunity if you are or may be called to military service and/or training during the course of the semester.

(5) Have a classmate give you copies of notes, handouts and announcements if you miss a class; write down at least 2 classmates’ contact information right here for this purpose:


classmate #1 name_____________________ phone_____________ email____________


classmate #2 name_____________________ phone_____________ email____________


classmate #3 name_____________________ phone_____________ email____________


As the UTEP Catalog says, “When in the judgment of the instructor, a student has been absent to such a degree as to impair his or her status relative to credit for the course, the instructor may drop the student from the class with a grade of “W” before the course drop deadline [Fri., April 3] and with a grade of “F” after the course drop deadline.”  To be specific, having 3 or more unexcused absences may result in an instructor-initiated drop.  On a positive note, excellent attendance can actually improve your grade, as you can see by the formula under “Grades.”


Disabilities: If you have or believe you have a disability that will require accommodations or modifications, you may wish to self-identify by contacting the Disabled Student Services Office (DSSO; 747-5148; East Union Building room 106;; to show documentation or register for testing and services.  DSSO will ask you to discuss needed accommodations with me within the first 2 weeks of the semester or as soon as disability is known, and at least 5 working days before an exam.  You are responsible for making sure I receive any DSS accommodation letters and instructions.  DSSO provides note taking, sign language, interpreter, reader and/or scribe services, priority registration, adaptive technology, diagnostic testing for learning disabilities, assistance with learning strategies/tutoring, alternative testing location and format, and advocacy.  Information provided to DSSO is kept confidential.


RESOURCES:  (see for updates!)


Literature Search Resources:


Search engine for scholarly work:


Search engine for articles in education:


Search engines for papers in certain areas of statistics/mathematics education:




Journals that publish mathematics education research: and and


Journals that publish statistics education articles (in increasing emphasis on research):

or  (UTEP library subscribes to this)


Many articles are available in via the UTEP library or through sites such as


Getting approval to conduct (local) research:


I initiated the compilation of this page,

which was followed by the IRB publishing this page


In general, the new page for UTEP’s Institutional Review Board ( has many useful pages on policies, doing public school research, required training & forms, etc.(if that page is ever “down”, then a “backup” page appears to be:

 IRB Administrator Lola Norton (747-8841) and Annabel Casas (747-7939) are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. 



Here’s some step-by-step guidance for our graduate students who want to do research at the school they teach in, to make sure you have the needed approval from both UTEP and the school district involved:


1) read the PowerPoint training described at and then answer the Questions in the “test” (and submit a copy of the completed test in place of the completion certificate by fax or email to IRB administrator Lola Norton (; Burges Hall 406; 747-8841);  this not only satisfies one of the requirements to get a proposal approved, but it also helps you recall principles to guide you as you write the proposal in the first place


2) Register for a free account at  The interface is easy to navigate, especially if you consult the training guides at the bottom of 


3) Write the study proposal, using the forms that are within the environment; you must designate a professor (e.g., me) as your advisor and you and the advisor each need to “sign” (electronically) the study before you can submit it.


4) Submit the proposal (and check the “status” of the study to make sure you did this successfully – it should now say “Pending Review”, not just “Work in Progress”).  This will lead to your getting a letter of “conditional approval” from UTEP.


5) Go to your school district with this “conditional approval” in hand (as evidence that the IRB has approved your study pending the site approval) and get approval from the superintendent or research supervisor for the district (it can’t be your school’s principal, for example) to do research at a site in the district.  Their site letter should be very formal on letterhead.  School districts do not typically have their own IRBs, but you may be able to learn what specific form or contact person your district uses at: or

Letters from private institutions should be signed by an appropriate director, executive, or owner. 


6) Take the formal school district approval letter and upload it as a document in IRBnet.  Then, send an email to the IRB administrator to let her know it has been uploaded.  She will then know to go into the system and (usually, within 24 hours) convert your “conditional approval” into “final, full approval.”


7) When your study has been fully approved, you should automatically receive notification by email (if, for some reason you don’t, contact the IRB office), and then you will know you can begin the study!  You will be able to download or print out UTEP’s document that proves you have final full approval.