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Research Collaboration: FPI and UVa Mathematics Professors
The Full Potential Initiative is working with professors Irina Mitrea and Tai Melcher in University of Virginia's Mathematics Department to better understand how mathematical self-concepts and interest develops. This collaborative research has involved both middle school girls attending a math camp and University of Virginia undergraduates enrolled in high-level mathematics, specifically, Ordinary Differential Equations.

Beginning in the summer of 2008, middle school girls attending a week-long math camp run by the professors participated in surveys conducted at the camp's beginning and end.  Among other findings, results indicated that campers at the end of the week were more likely to view difficult math problems as an exciting challenge than as cause for self-doubt.

The differential equations course is a focus because it involves transition from concrete, mechanical mathematical thinking to more sophisticated, abstract thinking, and because performance in this course can make-or-break a student's decision to pursue a math major.  Professors Mitrea, Melcher, and FPI developed survey instruments to track performance, attitudes and self-concepts in relation to key topics of the course.  Of particular interest is whether factors such as student gender, choice of major, and beliefs about the malleability of math intelligence make a difference in students' experience of the course.  The study is running in the spring semester of 2009.