Hunter Ellinger
Mathematics/science/computer education

In 1999, I started what turned out to be a four-year sabbatical (with interruptions for a couple of big non-education-related software projects) for graduate studies in Math/Science Education at the University of Texas at Austin. I also used the opportunity to take UT's modest offerings in cognitive science, another longstanding interest.  I am using I have learned to strengthen my contribution to the discussions about math/science education that have been a staple of my interacton with Mary Parker, the mathematics professor who is my longtime friend and living partner. But I am also interested in other possibilities, especially in informal science education and the development and distribution of free educational software.

SERP: Our most recent efforts in this area are as writers for a Hewlett Foundation project to provide middle-school teachers with a deeper background in the mathematics for which their instruction is preparing students.  This is organized around the new Common Core Standards For Mathematics.

Mathematics For Measurement: Mary and I developed a new entry-level college course designed to encourage a "math for practical arts" perspective that is more appealing and useful to many students than the traditional "math for liberal arts" course. While there is a lot more to be done, the trial sections that Mary has been teaching are well-received. Work related to the course is the basis for my master's thesis in math/science education.

Why children should learn to program computers: A Natural Sense of Algorithm.  This adaptation of one of my student papers discusses a task I hope at some point to address on a practical level.  Its description of the programming experience is the heart of my argument that learning to program computers is profoundly and broadly educational.

Other student papers: In addition to the thesis, here are my other main papers and projects from this round of graduate work. They have been revised when needed to reflect my views at the end of the program, but none have been peer-reviewed or published, except for the ASA talk. Comments are welcome from anyone interested enough to read them.
  • Central Limit -- The design for a computer program to enable student investigation of the phenomena related to statistics' central limit theorem.
  • Compelling Belief -- An examination, from an anti-formalist perspective, of student learning about mathematical proof.
  • Connecting with Reality -- An examination of the background and implications of the successful 1990's reform of the elementary-statistics curriculum.
  • Educational-Software Design -- An extended discussion of criteria for design of educational software.
  • Enabling Statistical Sophistication -- A paper presented at the 2000 annual meeting of the American Statistical Association.
  • Teaching Learning -- An appreciation of the excellent classroom-practice engineering of Ann Brown and her collaborators, as exemplified by her "distributed expertise" model.
  • Meaning for Free -- Why human language may have been an easier accomplishment than it appears to be in retrospect. This paper, like my thesis, uses some of the "order for free" evolved-systems theory developed by geneticist Stuart Kauffman.
  • Modeling Aesthetic Response -- A report on a cognitive-science project I did with another student, using web-based surveys to test a classic theory.
  • Strands of Developmentalism -- A quick comparison (in my first graduate-school paper) of the ideas of G. Stanley Hall, Jean Piaget, and Lev Vygotsky, pioneers in educational theory. The beginning of my unabated enthusiasm for Vygotsky's work.
  • Textbook Evaluation -- A design for a web site to enable collaborative evaluation of statistics textbooks.