Video: Fighting For Equal Education

Author: Arts and Letters

It’s no secret that students in the United States lag behind their global peers in math. On the most recently published Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam, the United States ranked behind 30 other countries in this subject. A recent report estimates that our students’ poor achievement in math could cost the country $75 trillion over the next 80 years. Nicole McNeil, ACE Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame, believes the problem starts with basic arithmetic, where students develop a misunderstanding of the equal sign.

In working with Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), McNeil’s innovative research, which involves a series of educational lessons and activities, changes the way children learn about the equal sign and the concept of mathematical equivalence. With support from the Institute of Educational Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and in partnership with ACE and its unique university-school partnership program, the Notre Dame ACE Academies, McNeil’s techniques have been implemented in schools across the country, positively influencing hundreds of students.

One of the teachers implementing these innovative techniques is Ruby Amezquita ’12, a political science major from the College of Arts and Letters who is in her second year in the ACE Service Through Teaching Program. She teaches third grade at Santa Cruz Catholic School in Tuscon, Arizona, and speaks about her experiences in this video. Also appearing in the segment is Dr. Tony Bryk, President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, an ACE supporter and one of the country’s most prolific education researchers.

McNeil, a fellow at the University’s Institute for Educational Initiatives, also directs the Education, Schooling, and Society Minor in the College of Arts and Letters. She focuses her research on the development of mathematical thinking in various forms. Over the past several years, McNeil has received more than $2 million in funding from the Institute of Education Sciences and the National Science Foundation to support her work. In 2013, she was honored with the American Psychological Association’s Boyd McCandless Award. The annual prize recognizes a scholar who has made a “distinguished contribution” to the field of developmental psychology, the dissemination of developmental science, or has conducted programmatic research of distinction.

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Originally published by Arts and Letters at on October 04, 2013.