SpaceMath@NASA

Project Name:
SpaceMath@NASA


Project Description:
Since 2004, SpaceMath@NASA has delivered hundreds of math problems, and problem guides, into the hands of teachers and students. Every week during the academic year, several new math problems are posted in a one-page PDF format as new press releases are posted by NASA. Over 400 individual problem files and 25 special-topic problem books currently exist at the SpaceMath@NASA website. The interest in this resource continues to be intense. As of April 2013, 7 million math problems have been downloaded.
 SpaceMath@NASA leverages the untapped potential of NASAs own press releases to capture the excitement of scientific discovery. NASA press releases contain a wealth of quantitative information, and understated mathematics, but easily recovered if you know how to look for it. SpaceMath@NASA works closely with NASA mission scientists to capture the often simple mathematics behind the discoveries, and to translate them into standards-based, real-world math activities for STEM education.
 Independent surveys of SpaceMath@NASA end-users continues to show that students enjoy these problems and the topics they cover; are productively challenged; ask questions that demonstrate elevated curiosity and interest; have measurably improved their academic performance; and look forward to new problems based upon press releases.

Based upon nearly 10-years of experience in developing exemplary formal education classroom materials at NASA for mathematics education;
1) We design and expand mathematics problem offerings across SMD divisions as new discoveries are announced, and new missions are flown; 2) We collaborate with NASA science missions to support their needs in mathematics education by co-developing mathematics enrichment problems and problem booklets that can be used to support a more quantitative understanding of mission science discoveries;
3) We work with the resources of the National Space Science Data Center to create inquiry-based mathematics explorations based on archival science data suitable reformed into micro-archives that can be used to explore a variety of open-ended research questions proposed by students;
4) We average the NASA eClipse video series to augment their content by adding mathematics-based enrichment activities that are introduced by the program segments;
5) We coordinate our activities with the Department of Education’s Interagency Affairs department to nationalize the audience of mathematics teachers aware of this NASA resource;
6) We conduct a variety of professional training workshops at national and regional teachers conventions affiliated with the NSTA and NCTM.


Lead Institution:
Goddard Space Flight Center


Partnerships:

  • NASA eClips
  • Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt
  • Sun-Earth Day
  • NASA Directorates
  • National Institute of Aerospace (NIA)
  • The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
  • The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)


Metrics:
Number of K-12 Teachers, Direct Interactions, FY12 (From OEPM): 977
Number of K-12 Students, Direct Interactions, FY12 (From OEPM): 66
Number of K-12 Students, Indirect Interactions, FY12 (From OEPM): 218


Effectiveness and Impact:
Evaluation findings and impact statements:
For the 2011-2012 academic year, data were collected from multiple sources to gauge the reach of Space Math and the effectiveness of the resources provided. There has been a steady increase in the number of visitors to the site. The number of unique visitors to the site continues to rise along with the amount of information and number of files downloaded (reaching 7 million in April 2013). This year a new partnership with Houghton-Mifflin resulted in inclusion of Space Math problems into their Algebra I text. This year the Venus Transit math book was featured for that June 5th event on the Sun-Earth Day and Venus Transit websites.



Survey results from educators using the site continue to support this assertion. Most teachers are still using Space Math problems from a few times a month to a few times a year primarily with students in grades 6-8 science and grades 10-12 physics with a growing number of informal educators utilizing the problems. While the teachers were united on their praise of the problems, they are divided about what changes would help make them accessible to a wider audience. Just over half (59%) suggested using a 3-page format with more introductory text and pictures, including more make skills for grades 9-12 (53%), grades 6-8 (52%), and grades 3-5 (43%). Teachers have expanded their sharing of Space Math problems and materials with their colleagues because they feel inspired by the problems, see them as directly applicable to their teaching. They report that they will be more effective using them, and that they will make changes in their teaching. Students using the problems are being productively challenged, are asking questions about the problems that demonstrate curiosity and interest, and seem to enjoy the problems and the topics they present.



In a comparison group study with five intervention classes and five comparison classes, students in two of the three teachers’ classes had statistically significant pre/post gains in solving the problems. Students in the third teacher’s intervention class also showed pre/post gains, although not significant. One teacher’s intervention students performed better than the comparison students at the .01 level (statistically significant). There were no differences by gender or ethnicity in performance eon the problem. As expected, students with high prior achievement performed better on the problem. The results show that students are able to improve their skill in solving the problem with instruction (the intervention). Further studies are needed to determine if Space Math facilitates learning the math as a context for use of the problem.



The Space Math problems continue to improve teachers’ impressions of NASA supporting STEM education in a significant way and making it easy for them to find exciting NASA math problems. Most teachers who attended a Space Math workshop in 2011 – 2012 agreed that the materials presented in the workshop aligned well with what they teach, that the resources will be effective in increasing their students’ interest in STEM topics, and that the experience provided ideas for encouraging student exploration, discussion and participation. Most teachers would recommend Space Math to other teachers (87-100%) and intend to use the problems with their classes (86-93%).

Educators utilizing the Space Math website to access and download problems reported:
• Space Math users report they use the problems a few times a month (43%) to once or twice a week (16%)

• Teachers find the math word problems they use by searching with Google (33%), developing their own (47%), and use online archives (41%)

• Teachers reported that they usually find application problems in space science by visiting the Space Math website (78% - a 12% increase from 2011), by using the main NASA website (39%, an 8% decrease from 2011), Googling them (15%) and visiting the individual mission pages (11%)
• Educators would like to see additional problems primarily on basic physics and chemistry (59%), rockets, astronauts and the space station (51%), global warming and climate change (50%) and planetary exploration (49%)

• The collection of problems available at SpaceMath@NASA has made it easy for them to find exciting NASA math problems (74%) and has improved teachers’ impressions of NASA as supporting STEM education in a significant way (70%)

• Teachers are divided in how they download Space Math materials with 40% reporting they find it more convenient to download the individual problem files while 48% download both the books and the individual problems

• 67% of the teachers reported that their students are productively challenged by the problems, 59% reported that their students enjoy the problems and the topics they present, and 63% reported that their students ask questions about the problems that demonstrate curiosity and interest. About a third (32%) reported that their students have improved their academic performance as a result of working with the Space Math problems and 33% reported their students look forward to new problem series. These number are slightly higher than 2011.

• Making connections between the problems and recent NASA press releases has been a positive approach according to 59% of the teachers; 52% reported that it should be continued and increased in frequency.

• Teachers are sharing the materials with other teachers with most sharing with at least one or two other teachers (55%) while some are sharing with six or more other teachers (21%)

• Teachers top recommendation for increasing the reach of the problems was to use a 3-page format with more introductory text and pictures (59% agree) followed by including more math skills in grades 6-8 (52% agreed) and 9-12 (53% agree)

• The extremely high volume download trend continues with a steady increase the downloading of Space Math problems with the 5 millionth download occurring in June of 2012
• Website hits increased from just over 285,000 in August 2011 to just over 350,000 in June of 2012

• Both unique IP address users and data transfer amounts have shown a sharp increase after a precipitous drop early in the year increasing from under 60,000 in October to over 180,000 PDF files downloaded in June of this year alone. Additionally, the amount of data transferred has more than tripled form December of 2012 to June 2012
• The top downloaded problem was Earth and Moon to Scale – downloaded a total of 18,196 times

• The total number of downloads represented by top-ranked books is 369,382. This is about 56% of all book-length PDF files offered at SpaceMath@NASA

• The top downloaded book was Transit Math Volume II downloaded a total of 47,098 times
• Our 2500-teacher listserve represents teachers in all 50 states who typically teach 150 students each day, so the total student contact is 375,000 students each year.


• By April 2013 over 7 million problems have been downloaded from the website

The website typically has 700,000 hits/month and serves 65 gigabytes/month of classroom-ready data and problem resources.
• Over 75% of all NASA mathematics resources have been developed by SpaceMath@NASA and are served on the NASA educator resource portal.