Decorative Flash movie
Mathematics and Science Education Ph.D. Program
Palm trees
MSED group meeting
La Jolla Cove


The following MSED graduates successfully defended their theses as described:

Spencer Bagley (Graduated 2014)

Thesis Title: "Improving Student Success in Calculus:
A Comparison of Four College Calculus Classes"

Spencer has accepted a position as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Northern Colorado in the School of Mathematical Sciences.

Spencer Bagley at graduation in 2014

Jess Ellis (Graduated 2014)

Thesis Title: "Preparing Future College Instructors: The Role of Graduate Student Teaching Assistants (GTAs) in Successful College Calculus Programs"

Jaime has accepted a position as an assistant professor at Colorado State University in the Department of Mathematics.

Jess Ellis at gradulation in 2014

Jaime Diamond (jaimediamondmath@yahoo.com, Graduated 2013)

Thesis Title: "Teachers' Beliefs Regarding the Generalization of Students' Learning and How to Support the Generalization of Students' Learning"

Jaime is a faculty member in the Mathematics and Science Education Department at the University of Georgia, Athens.

Jaime Diamond

Dov Zazkis (zazkis@gmail.com, Graduated 2013)

Thesis Title: "Calculus Students' Representation Use in Group-Work and Individual Settings"

Dov has a post-doc position at Rutger's University in New Jersey.

Dov Zazkis

Michael Smith (msmith25@gmail.com, Graduated 2012)

Thesis Title: "Methods of Mathematical Struggle"

Michael Smith

Michelle Nolasco (mnolasco@ucsd.edu, Graduated 2012)

Thesis Title: "Reciprocal Engagement between a Scientist and Visual Displays"

Michelle Nolasco

George Sweeney (georgefsweeney@gmail.com, Graduated 2012)

Thesis Title: "Understanding Vectors and Vector Equations in a Classroom Community of Practice"

George Sweeney

John Zig Siegfried (ziggafoss@hotmail.com, Graduated 2012)

Thesis Title: "The Missing Strand of Mathematical Content Knowledge: Defining and Assessing for Productive Disposition in Elementary School Teachers"

John Zig Siegfried

Ian Whitacre (ianwhitacre@yahoo.com, Graduated 2012)

Thesis Title: "Investigating Number Sense Development in a Mathematics Content Course for Prospective Elementary Teachers"

Ian Whitacre

Jen Lineback (JenLineback@pointloma.edu, Graduated 2012)

Thesis Title: "Mrs. Miller's Evolution in Teaching Science as Inquiry: A Case Study of a Teacher's Change in Responsiveness"

Jen Lineback

Corinne Lardy (corinne_lardy@yahoo.com, Graduated 2011)

Thesis Title: "Personal Science Teaching Efficacy and the Beliefs and Practices of Elementary Teachers Related to Science Instruction"

Corinne Lardy

Megan Wawro (megan.wawro@gmail.com, Graduated 2011)

Thesis Title: "Individual and Collective Analysis of the Genesis of Student Reasoning regarding the Invertible Matrix Theorem in Linear Algebra"

Megan is Department of Mathematics faculty at Virginia Tech.

Megan Wawro

Charles Hohensee (charleshohensee@gmail.com, Graduated 2011)

Thesis Title: "Backward Transfer: How Prior Knowledge Changes As One Builds Upon It"

Charles is faculty in the College of Education at the University of Delaware.

Charles Hohensee

Osvaldo Soto (osoto@ucsd.edu, Graduated 2010)

Thesis Title: "Teacher Change in the Context of a Proof-Centered Professional Development"

Ovie will work with Math for America, San Diego, while also continuing to teach high school.


Osvaldo Soto

Cassondra Brown (cas_brown97@yahoo.com, Graduated 2009)

Thesis Title: "Perspectives on Instructor Modeling in Mathematics Teacher Education."

Cassondra is currently teaching at Palomar College.


Anne Duffy

Rebekka Darner (rdarner@ufl.edu, Graduated 2007)

Thesis Title: "The Use of Self-Determination Theory to Foster Environmental Motivation in an Environmental Biology Course"

Rebekka is a Lecturer in the Biology Department at the University
of Florida.


Rebekka Darner and child


Anne Duffy (aduffy@HighTechHigh.org, Graduated 2006)

My dissertation focuses on changing students' ways of understanding aromaticity (which has to be with pi-orbital stabilization rather than smell) and electrophilic aromatic substitution reactions in organic chemistry. Anne is currently teaching at High Tech High in San Diego.


Anne Duffy

Kien Lim (kienlim@utep.edu, Graduated 2006)

My research involved interviewing 11th-graders and having them solve problems involving algebraic inequalities and equations to identify and characterize students' mental act of anticipating and conducting a one-on-one teaching experiment with the objective of advancing the character of students' anticipations.  The goal was to investigate the process in which students improve the character of their anticipations. 

I am now an associate professor with the Dept of Mathematics at the University of Texas, El Paso.

Kien Lim

April Maskiewicz (AprilMaskiewicz@pointloma.edu, Graduated 2006)

I am currently an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department at Point Loma Nazarene University. My research interests are primarily focused on developing more effective approaches for teaching biology. Current research involves the design, implementation, and analysis of highly collaborative inquiry-oriented biology learning activities at both the elementary school level and the undergraduate level. My findings are intended to contribute to the scholarly discourse in education on learning in biology and to the development of theory for reconceptualizing biology instruction.


Aprim Maskiewicz and family

Eva Thanheiser (evat@pdx.edu, Graduated 2005)

My dissertation research focused on preservice teachers' conceptions of multidigit whole numbers. Studies have shown that prospective elementary school teachers (PSTs) lack the understanding of multidigit whole numbers necessary to teach in ways that empower students mathematically.  However, little is known about what conceptions PSTs hold, and to be poised to help PSTs build a profound understanding of number, mathematics educators need to be aware of the PSTs' currently held conceptions. In my work, I drew upon the extensive research on children's understanding of multidigit whole numbers to explicate PSTs' conceptions of these numbers. Results indicate that PSTs hold a range of conceptions, and although all PSTs could correctly apply the algorithms, many lacked the deep conceptual understanding that would enable them to support their students' development of place-value understanding. My framework includes a classification of PSTs' currently held conceptions of multidigit whole numbers and thus can be used to support mathematics educators who teach these students.

I am currently an associate professor of Mathematics Education at Portland State University.


Eve Thanheiser

Amy Ellis (Graduated 2004)

For my dissertation research, I extended Lobato's actor-oriented transfer perspective to examine the ways in which middle-school students generalized during units on linear functions. Through qualitative analysis of clinical interviews and teaching-experiment data, I developed a generalization framework differentiating between types and levels of generalizing acts. This framework, in concert with Harel and Sowder's taxonomy of proof schemes, allowed me to generate a) direct links between generalization types and associated proof schemes, and b) more complex relationships revealing how the two acts mutually influence one another. I am a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Amy Ellis at graduation

Dianne Anderson (DianneAnderson@pointloma.edu, Graduated 2003)

My dissertation research focused on how students learn the theory of natural selection in non-majors' biology courses. My advisor, Kathleen Fisher, and I developed and field tested a distractor-driven diagnostic exam on the topic of natural selection. The 20 items on the Conceptual Inventory of Natural Selection (CINS) focus on ten concepts that make up the theory of natural selection. Item distractors were predominantly previously-published alternative conceptions related to each concept, and item contexts are based on well-documented examples of natural selection. My dissertation work used the CINS to assess the relative conceptual difficulty of the ten underlying ideas across various populations of students. In addition, I used the CINS as a pretest and posttest to assess the impact of classroom activities related to natural selection. Kathleen Fisher and I also developed biology concept cartoons. Both the CINS and the concept cartoons are available at http://www.biologylessons.sdsu.edu/. I am currently teaching biology at Point Loma Nazarene University where I plan to continue my research with general biology students (e-mail: dianneanderson@ptloma.edu).


Dianne Anderson

Stacy Brown (Stacy_Brown@pitzer.edu, Graduated 2003)

For my dissertation I examined how students' understandings of proof by mathematical induction evolved during an 8-week teaching experiment. The design of the experiment was informed by a theoretical perspective that is a synthesis of two complementary theories: the Theory of Didactical Situations (Brousseau, 1997) and the Necessity Principle, Harel's (1998) theory of intellectual need. I provided an account of how a cohort of students' proof schemes and ways of understanding progressed through three stages: pre-transformational, restrictive transformational, and transformational, as they worked through a series of proof by mathematical induction appropriate tasks. I also reported on the various didactical and epistemological obstacles the students encountered at each stage. The results of the study indicate that the students' conceptions of what constitutes a convincing argument changed in response to a series of shifts in the students' understandings of generality.

I am currently an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Cal Poly, Pomona.


Stacy Brown

Cody Sandifer (csandifer@towson.edu, Graduated 2001)

I investigated the factors that have the greatest effect on students' small-group discourse in their investigations of force and motion. My past accomplishments include the publication of an article in Science Education on visitor behavior in an interactive science museum, the instruction of elementary school children (3 years) using educational software, and the creation of a one-celled living organism out of two sticks, a sharp rock, and a blueberry muffin. I am currently an assistant professor of Physics, Astronomy and Geosciences at Towson University in Maryland (web page: http://www.new.towson.edu/physics/scienceeducation/faculty.asp).


Cody Sandifer

Pictures from the 2001 graduation celebration: http://www.sci.sdsu.edu/CRMSE/grad01/sld001.htm

Susan Nickerson (snickers@sunstroke.sdsu.edu, Graduated 2001, pictured with Professor Janet Bowers)

Susan Nickerson with Janet Bowers

I explored the relationship between students' reinterpretation of algebraic symbolizations and their concurrent development of meaning in a technology-enhanced classroom. The primary focus was to understand what types of instructional activities can support the development of algebraic reasoning with an emphasis on rates, graphing, and expressing abstract concepts (such as slope and intercept) with algebraic symbols. I worked with a high school Algebra I teacher in the context of a classroom teaching experiment. Together we developed technology-intensive activities for a unit on graphs of linear equations and a unit on systems of linear equations. After each day's lesson, I met with the teacher to discuss the outcome of the lesson and to consider how to revise subsequent lessons on the basis of these observations. This methodology provided the opportunity to conduct scientific inquiry by continually conjecturing and refining a model of student learning while embedded in the classroom. I am currently an associate professor of mathematics education at SDSU (web page: http://www.sci.sdsu.edu/CRMSE/snickerson.html).


Valerie Otero (Valerie.Otero@Colorado.edu, Graduated 2001)

Valerie OteroMy doctoral research focused on the role of the computer in student-centered, inquiry-based, physical-science classrooms. I studied a unit on static electricity and magnetism in a physics course using the CPU pedagogy at SDSU. The CPU static electricity simulators were designed to use a red and blue coloring scheme to represent charge as a fluid-like continuum. Two electrical conditions are represented by red and blue lines of varied thickness drawn on the surface of charged objects. With this scheme, students could "predict" how an object should be colored to explain particular observations that they made in hands-on experiments. They could then perform a "computer experiment" and obtain model-like "evidence" to check against their prediction and to help them make sense of their observations. We therefore consider the prediction of how to color an object to be a "concept prediction"and the simulator results to be model-like or "concept evidence" for that prediction. Students performed computer experiments to test their concept predictions, which helped them to view the computer results as evidence about which to make sense rather than as "the right answer" or a dictum from authority to be memorized and forgotten. Hands-on experiments provided phenomenological tools and the computer simulator provided conceptual tools that helped students to bridge the gap between phenomenological observations and conceptual explanations. Systemic reform initiatives increasingly require that computers be used in the K–12 classroom, but little information exists about how the computer should be used to help students construct knowledge. This research demonstrates how the computer can be used as a conceptual tool to help students construct explanatory models in science and to bridge the gap between the phenomenological and conceptual domains. I am currently a professor of science education at the University of Colorado, Boulder (web page: http://spot.colorado.edu/~otero/).

Daniel Siebert (dsiebert@mathed.byu.edu, Graduated 2000, shown with graduate Cody Sandifer)

Daniel Siebert with Cody Sandifer

For my dissertation study I examined 8 prospective secondary mathematics teachers' (PSTs') knowledge of and beliefs about mathematics as they progressed through a capstone mathematics course designed to change their mathematical knowledge and beliefs. My analysis of the data suggests that majoring in mathematics does not provide PSTs with adequate mathematical knowledge to teach mathematics in a nontraditional way. PSTs had very weak knowledge of the concepts underlying mathematics topics and tended instead to view the mathematics as a consistent, interrelated set of rules, procedures, facts, and definitions. To change their mathematical knowledge and beliefs, PSTs had to first "unhook" from the rules and algorithms that comprised their mathematical thinking and begin to reason quantitatively. For some PSTs, this break from an algorithmic approach gave them new-found power to solve problems in unique and sophisticated ways. Their subsequent excitement led them to spontaneously question their knowledge of other mathematical topics and to seek powerful quantitative images for those topics, too. I am currently a professor of mathematics education at Brigham Young University. (e-mail: dsiebert@math.byu.edu).

Lisa Clement Lamb (lisa.lamb@sdsu.edu, Graduated 1999)

Lisa Clement

Understanding Teachers' Actions in the Classroom—In my dissertation research, I attempted to make sense of mathematics teachers' orientations toward teaching by looking at their beliefs, values, and mathematical understandings. I studied two teachers: one who is oriented toward teaching as is proposed in mathematics education reform documents and another who is oriented toward a more traditional style of mathematics teaching. My work on the NSF-supported Teacher Preparation and Enhancement curriculum development project included piloting innovative Geometry Materials for preservice and inservice elementary teachers. I am currently a professor of mathematics education at SDSU (web page: http://www.sci.sdsu.edu/CRMSE/lclement.html).

Andy Johnson (AndyJohnson@bhsu.edu, Graduated 1999, pictured with Professor Fred Goldberg)

Andy Johnson with Fred Goldberg

For my research project, Students' Development of Models of Magnetic Materials, I mapped the development of models of magnetic materials by preservice elementary teachers in a CPU computer-supported guided-inquiry course. I also studied how technology-supported group interaction contributes to learning. In particular, I focused on the types of interactions that groups engage in when they are typing or drawing answers for the group, and I identified influences of students' felt expectations and obligations (norms) on their interactions, and thus on their learning. I am currently an assistant professor with the Center for Advancement of Mathematics and Science Education (CAMSE) at Black Hills State University.