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Virginia State University Awarded $3 Million Grant from National Science Foundation to Increase Students Skills for STEM Careers

Published date: September 22, 2016

The National Science Foundation has awarded Virginia State University (VSU) a $3 million grant titled Algebra Project Mathematics Content and Pedagogy Initiative. This initiative will work with school districts in Petersburg, Richmond, New Orleans and Philadelphia to increase the number of underrepresented minority students entering college with the skills to be able to pursue a STEM major and career.

According to Dr. Oliver Hill, who serves as the principal investigator for the grant, VSU will collaborate with researchers from Dillard, Xavier and Lincoln Universities on the project. 

“This is a four-year project in which we will be testing the efficacy of introducing Algebra Project pedagogy into these school districts, and also forming collaborative relations with historically black colleges and universities to implement what we are calling a “’K-16 Model’,” Hill said.

The Algebra Project is a unique approach to teaching mathematics that was developed by civil rights icon Bob Moses, who received a MacArthur “genius award” to forward this work.  In this method, even the most abstract mathematical principles are taught in ways that are grounded in the everyday experience of students. The K-16 Model was developed by the Southern Initiative Algebra Project, and it involves utilizing the resources of the institutions of higher education to support the efforts of local distressed school districts.  One component involves training university students in methods of the Algebra Project to be peer math mentors.  The model also includes summer bridge programs, dual-enrollment courses in advanced mathematics and programs to encourage students to return to their communities as teachers.

Hill, who serves as the executive director of the VSU Research Foundation and is a professor of psychology, further shared that the ultimate goal of the project is to identify a model that could be applied in distressed school districts around the country.

Dr. Dawit Haile, associate dean of VSU’s College of Engineering and Technology, is the co-principal investigator for the grant. The award will end on August 31, 2020.

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