note: From the top of, you can access this syllabus if you misplace yours, want to explore its links, or see any updates to it.  Syllabus is subject to modification by instructor to meet course needs, especially if there are disruptions such as an H1N1 epidemic or unexpected changes in class size, resources, student backgrounds, etc.


Course Number: MATH 4370-002 (CRN#16774)

Course Title: Topics Seminar: Introduction to Research in Mathematics Education

Credit Hours: 3

Term: Fall 2010

Prerequisite:  Departmental Approval

Course Fee:  none


Course Meetings & Location:  Bell 130A LART 209, MW 6:30-7:50pm, except Sept. 6.

The instructor will announce which meetings may be held in a lab or library area for hands-on explorations of research tools.  In the event of a major disruption (e.g., H1N1 epidemic), be prepared to maintain course progress via alternative means (e.g., phone, Elluminate, Internet, a Blackboard course shell, etc.). Also, be sure to check your email (especially your UTEP address) regularly.


Instructor:  Dr. Larry Lesser (rhymes with “professor”, spelled like “<”). I’ve been a UTEP Assoc. Prof. since 2004 and began teaching university classes in 1988. I’ve served on national journal editorial and research advisory boards and published in selective research journals such as Statistics Education Research Journal.  More background at 


Office Location:  Bell Hall 213

Contact Info:             Phone:   (915) 747-6845

                        Email  Lesser (at) (include “6:30 class” in the subject line)


Fax: (915) 747-6502 (note: this is a math department fax, so be sure to

have my name clearly on it; be aware that staff are not available to relay faxes to me outside the math dept’s hours of M-F 8-12, 1-5

            Emergency Contact: (915) 747-5761 (during math dept office hours)

Office hours:  Mondays 5:45-6:15, Wednesdays 3-3:45, and by appointment;

changes and additions will be announced/posted later; students are also welcome to try stopping by without an appointment at other times for short questions or to request an appointment (by sending me an email with several suggested times that would work for you) for longer questions


Textbook(s), Materials:

Required textbook: Hendricks, Cher C. (2008). Improving Schools through Action Research: A Comprehensive Guide for Educators (2nd ed.). Allyn & Bacon. Other resources include URLs (e.g., tips for oral presentations and and   articles which will be accessible online or on reserve in the UTEP library.

Read/do each assignment before the class meeting we discuss it.


Course Objectives (Learning Outcomes):  Students will….


Course Activities/Assignments:  Students will participate in in-class activities, read assigned articles and chapters, facilitate/participate in discussions, take exam/quizzes, write reflections, do homework exercises, and submit a written research paper (and give a short oral presentation of it).  The instructor will make clear which assignments or assessments may be done in pairs (or small groups) and which must be done individually.


Assessment of Course Objectives:  Assessments include written reflections, exam, quizzes, class discussions, written research paper, oral presentation of research paper.


Course Schedule:       Census Day: Sept. 8

Test: currently set for Oct. 20, but subject to change

Deadline to Drop with a “W”:  Oct. 29

Last Regular Class Meeting: Dec. 1

Final Exam Week Meeting: 7-9:45pm, Dec. ___

(as scheduled by UTEP registrar; the final exam week meeting will not be a final exam, but a time available for oral presentations of the research papers; if you have a pre-approved reason not to be able to present during this time, you need to arrange with me as soon as possible to turn in and present your project earlier)


Grading Policy: after any rescaling needed for all components to be on the 0-100 scale, the grade is determined by the usual cutoffs of 90-80-70-60 based on these parts:

Quizzes, Short Reflections, Homework Assignments:  20%

Midterm Exam: 30%

Written Research Paper: 40%  (details are found later in this syllabus)

Oral Presentation of Research Paper: 10%

Attendance:  Subject to change if required by UTEP policy, your final course

average will have 2 – 3U – E points added to it, where U = number of unexcused absences and E = number of excused absences.  This reflects how crucial participation is for a course with “beyond-the-book” discussion, but without penalizing someone with ≤ 2 (excused) absences.


Makeup Policy: Much of this course involves beyond-the-book group activities, experiences or discussions that are virtually impossible to recreate or “make up”.  Successful completion of this course is intended not only to imply you have demonstrated sufficient knowledge acquisition, but also that you have been exposed to key processes, modeling, and experiences. Therefore, if you are now in a situation where you expect to have frequent absences, you might consider taking this class another semester.  In general (out of fairness and logistics), late work will not be accepted, and may be subject to a penalty in the rare borderline cases that it is accepted at the instructor’s discretion.   A makeup exam is possible if: (1) it is taken at the earliest opportunity, and (2) missing the exam was unavoidable for a serious reason that is relayed to me (preferably by email) within 24 hours (or the earliest possible opportunity), followed up if necessary by documentation like a doctor’s note.


Attendance Policy:  Attendance is required. 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. 

It’s your responsibility to….

(1) Sign any attendance sheet each day you attend before I pack up my materials.

(2) Let me know by email (Lesser (at) or voicemail (747-6845) or daytime math dept. fax (747-6502) in advance 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 [Sept. 13]

 if you will have absence for religious holy days (which are excused, of course).  

(4) Give me an email or written documentation as soon as possible if you anticipate the possibility of missing large parts of class due to exceptional circumstances such as military service/training, childbirth, or competing on official UTEP athletic teams.

(5) Have a classmate give you copies of notes, handouts and announcements if you miss a class; write down 3 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 [Oct. 29] and with a grade of “F” after the course drop deadline.”  In practical terms, this means a student could be dropped for more than 4 absences (unless there has been a reason I have approved). If you choose to withdraw, I ask you to submit the formal paperwork and send me an email to let me know rather than just stop attending class and assume you will be withdrawn automatically.  On a positive note, a strong record of attendance will be taken into account if your final average is a point below a letter grade cutoff.


Academic Integrity Policy: It’s UTEP’s policy (and mine) for all suspected violations to be referred to the Dean of Students for investigation and disposition (See Section 1.3.1 of the Handbook for Operating Procedures; 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 represents 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).  Cite references that you do consult, using APA style (an older edition of the guide is on 2-hour reserve in the UTEP Library) with complete citations even for websites and people you consult. 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, contributed to, and understand 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!


Civility Statement: You are expected to follow basic standards of courtesy (e.g., “Student Conduct” and “Disruptive Acts Policy” in the UTEP Catalog) and may be dismissed from class for blatant or sustained disruptive behavior. Your comments during classroom discussions need to focus constructively and respectfully on the intellectual merit of a position, not critiquing the person expressing it.  You should avoid side conversations when one person (me, or another student) is talking to the whole class. Also, do not engage in phone, email or text conversations during class. Laptops should not be open unless they are being used to take notes during lectures or work on course projects during group work time.  (In other words, off-task activities such as texting, Facebook, YouTube, or emailing are unacceptable because they distract and disrupt class participation.)  If you truly are expecting an urgent call on your cell phone or pager, please let me know and sit near the door to minimize disruption (and have your phone on “vibrate” instead of anything loud), and have it handy so you don’t have to dig through a backpack for it). Otherwise, please keep your phone/pager off during class.  Feel free to give your family member or child care provider the phone number for an academic office or lab (e.g., LACIT 405: 747-5375) near our classroom so you can rest assured that staff can quickly let you know if there is a true emergency.


Disability Statement: If you have or believe you have a disability requiring accommodations, you may wish to self-identify by contacting the Disabled Student Services Office (DSSO; 747-5148; East Union Building 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 to make sure I receive any DSSO instructions and accommodation letters.  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. 


Military Statement: Give me an email or written documentation as soon as possible if you anticipate the possibility of missing large parts of class due to military service.




Professionalism Statement: Beyond the previously mentioned Civility Statement, students in this course are required to exhibit professionalism that goes beyond avoiding negative behaviors.  This includes making a good faith effort in preparation for and participation in individual and collaborative class activities.  A classroom culture must be actively supported that understands that “wrong answers” are usually correct answers to a different question or valuable learning opportunities to address a common misconception. Finally, be open to local opportunities for professional growth or service, and consider planning to present your work (even if still “in progress”) at research conferences such as the UTEP student research expo (April) or the SUN conference (March). 


Confidentiality: UTEP policy requires that inquiries about confidential information such as grades cannot be done over the phone, but must be from your account and accompanied by your 800 number.  If you want to know your course grade between our last meeting and when UTEP puts grades online, you will have a chance during the last week of class to give me a “secret code word” that I will post your course grade by at the bottom of my homepage. 


Details on the Research Paper: 


Due date:  will be announced in advance by the instructor, but it will not be before the last week of classes and not after the last day of finals week.


Oral presentation:  Time constraints will be announced in advance and depend on how many paper presentations there are and how much time is available.  The presentation (including visual aids, spoken content, and responses to questions) is assessed on clarity and appropriateness for the audience.  See tips for oral presentations. This presentation is an important experience for your career and professional development.


Topic: must be approved in advance by the instructor, and generally should involve empirical research on a topic involving the teaching and/or learning of math or statistics

Typically, this would involve a plan to analyze data you collect from your (or, perhaps someone else’s) classroom, with all needed IRB/approvals in place before data is collected.  During this course, you will go through the first few steps of the IRB process but not necessarily get to collecting data (see SECTION THREE of


Formatting: 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 (you are allowed to get feedback on writing mechanics from the UTEP Writing Center in Library 227,, 747-5112), 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 (i.e., not just “5360 research paper”) identification coversheet on top.


Sections: This paper will mirror the first three chapters of a the “five-chapter format” of a thesis in a scaled-down manner that is closer to what a journal article has (and I’m happy to help you later submit your paper to an appropriate journal if you’re interested!).  Be sure to check the appropriate parts of Table 8.1 in your book. There is no specific minimum or maximum page limit for this paper, but I expect that to address all the requirements, it will probably end up being around 12-25 pages long, not counting appendices.  The paper must be broken down by the following section headings that must appear in this order:


[note: Math 4370 undergraduates will do more of a literature review paper instead of a proposal-like paper for action research, so their paper will contain only an abstract, the first part of the Introduction section, Literature Review section, and References]








After the references section is where you would put things like lengthy tables or interview transcripts and data collection instruments such as questionnaires or interview protocols.

In between your methodology and references sections would be the following sections of your paper, but that’s for a later course, after you actually have collected your data! 


Results – this is reporting what the data actually say and should be organized by research questions; don’t just give us a very long sequence of narrative here – find ways to summarize analysis/output with tables/graphs/charts or move certain details to an appendix to maintain the flow for the readers [this is like chapter 4 of a thesis]


Discussion --  summarizes actual findings and interprets what the data mean and what they imply (i.e., practical implications for researchers and teachers), and gives conclusions that are specifically supported by your results and connect back to the literature; discuss possible impacts of limitations, threats to validity, etc., and offer suggestions for future research  [this is like chapter 5 of a thesis]



(most of those without URLs should still be accessible via the UTEP library)


1.) Wentzel, K. R. (2005). Developing and nurturing interesting and researchable ideas. In Clifton F. Conrad and Ronald C. Serlin (Eds.), Sage handbook for research in education: Engaging ideas and enriching inquiry (pp. 315-330). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


2.) Garfield, J., & Ahlgren, A. (1988). Difficulties in learning basic concepts in probability and statistics: Implications for research. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 19(1), 44-63.


3.) Shaughnessy, J. M. (2007). Research on statistics learning and reasoning. In Frank K. Lester, Jr. (Ed.), Second handbook of research on mathematics teaching and learning (pp. 957-1009). Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.


4.) Shaughnessy, J. M. (1977). Misconceptions of probability: An experiment with a small-group, activity-based, model building approach to introductory probability at the college level.  Educational Studies in Mathematics, 8(3), 295-316.


5.) delMas, R. C., Garfield, J., & Chance, B. (1999). A model of classroom research in action: Developing simulation activities to improve students’ statistical reasoning. Journal of Statistics Education, 7(3),

6.) Lesser, L. (1998). Countering indifference using counterintuitive examples. Teaching Statistics, 20(1), 10-12.


7.) Lesser, L., & Melgoza, L. (2007). Simple numbers: ANOVA example of facilitating student learning in statistics. Teaching Statistics, 29(3), 102-105.


8.) Lesser, L. (1998). Technology-rich standards-based statistics: Improving introductory statistics at the college level. Technological Horizons in Education Journal, 25(7), 54-57.


9.) Garner, R. L. (2006). Humor in pedagogy: How ha-ha can lead to aha!, College Teaching, 54(1), 177-180.


10.) Lesser, L., & WInsor, M. (2009). English language learners in introductory statistics: Lessons learned from an exploratory case study of two pre-service teachers. Statistics Education Research Journal, 8(2), 5-32.


11.) Brase, G. L. (2008). Pictorial representations in statistical reasoning. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23(3), 369-381.  


12.) Lesser, L. (2001). Representations of Reversal:  An exploration of Simpson's paradox.  In Albert A. Cuoco and Frances R. Curcio (Eds.), The roles of representation in school mathematics (pp. 129-145).  Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.


13.) Lesser, L., & Tchoshanov, M. (2006). Selecting representations. Texas Mathematics Teacher, 53(2), 20-26. The issue is at

14.) Lesser, L., & Tchoshanov, M. (2005). The effect of representation and representational sequence on students’ understanding. In G. M. Lloyd, M.R. Wilson, J.L.M. Wilkins, & S.L. Behm (Eds.), Proceedings of the 27th annual meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education.


15.) Ozmantar, M. F., Akkoc, H., Bingolbali, E., Demir, S., & Ergene, B. (2010). Pre-service mathematics teachers’ use of multiple representations in technology-rich environments. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, 6(1), 19-36.


16.) Tchoshanov, M., Lesser, L., & Salazar, J. (2008). Teacher knowledge and student achievement: Revealing patterns. Journal of Mathematics Education Leadership, 10(2), 38-48. The issue is at


17.) Ryan, G. W. (n.d.) What are standards of rigor for qualitative research?


18.) American Statistical Association (2007). Using statistics effectively in mathematics education research. Washington, DC: ASA.


19.) Sowder, J., and Schappelle, B. (Eds.) (2002). Lessons learned from research. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.


20.) Carpenter, T. P., Dossey, J. A., and Koehler, J. L. (2004). Classics in mathematics education research. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.