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NSF GK-12 International Activities


California State University at Northridge (CSUN)
FERMAT: Fellows Engaged as Resources in Mathematics to Assist Teachers

Location of International Experience
State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Sao Paolo, Brazil

Description of Partners and Discipline/Research Focus
In 2006-07, three fellows and one teacher partner participated. GK-12 fellows and graduate students from UNICAMP engaged in mathematical research supervised by faculty from the university. (The Brazilian students were funded by the Federal Brazilian Agency CNPq.) The GK-12 teacher attended professional development programs for teachers at the university, interacted with Brazilian teachers, and worked on a mathematical problem supervised by the PI. The teacher also interacted with Brazilian graduate students, especially one who works with teachers in the professional development workshops.

Cynthia Shepherd did a research paper on composite membranes along with graduate students Aldo Lopes (Brazilian student) and Russell Howes. This project was under the advisement of Professor Renato Pedrosa, UNICAMP, and part of the International Research Experience for Students Program.

Sara Frietze worked with graduate students Robert Gerrity and Tiago Picon (Brazilian student). Their work, supervised by Brazilian researchers, Helena Lopes and Max Souza, concerned fluid flow in an annulus within the low-viscosity limit. This was an open problem in fluid mechanics. The analysis of velocity solutions and vorticity production in the inviscid limit led to a solution at the end of the four-week program. Drs. Lopes and Souza will use the work completed in the summer by the graduate students to publish a paper in a journal of mathematics.

Tigran Mkrtchyan participated in a workshop on differential geometry at UNICAMP in December 2006.

Partner Teacher
Tania Lopes wrote a paper comparing Brazilian and California standards for high school mathematics. She also worked on a topic of Hyperbolic Geometry that she presented in the Masters Program for teachers at CSUN.

Fellows wrote research articles and made presentations. Cynthia Shepherd presented a poster at the National Science Foundation during the Annual GK-12 meeting. Sara Frietze spoke about her research in the PDE section of the AMS/MAA joint meeting in New Orleans in January, 2007. This experience had a positive impact on their futures as mathematicians. In addition to the mathematical research, Fellows learned the benefits of an international collaboration, expanding their views of the scientific world and gaining cultural experiences that can impact their communication and teamwork skills.

Upon their return from Brazil, Fellows asked the students in their high school classes how much they knew about Brazil. They discovered that not much more is known about the country other than soccer and carnival. Fellows and the teacher shared their cultural experiences with the students, and then did a presentation on Brazilian high school mathematics standards for all GK-12 teachers participating in the FERMAT program.

The main challenges of an international collaboration relate to differences in language and the development of solid contacts with the foreign faculty and teachers. Because the PI for this project is from Brazil, these difficulties were minimized.

Future Plans
In 2007-08, three Fellows, Emily Schinitger, Scott Northrup, and Yeranuhi Semerdjian, will travel to Brazil to do research with Brazilian students supervised by university mathematicians. These Fellows will also meet with some of the teachers from the school that will be visited by a GK-12 teacher in Spring 2008.

Profile date: July 2007

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