Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education

Sponsor photo


The Slesnick Symposium is an annual symposium series in memory of Irwin L. Slesnick, one of the co-founders of SMATE and leader in the field of Science Education. 




Upcoming Slesnick Symposium:

Friday April 28, 2017 - Suzanne Brahmia from University of Washington will present the keynote address

 "Mathematization: A Tight Cognitive Blend of Content and Practices"

keynote speaker

Tentative Schedule:

10:30-12:30    C-Core poster symposium

12:30-1:30      Lunch

1:30-3:00        Workshop facilitated by Suzanne Brahmia -  Physics Invention Tasks: Developing Mathematical Creativity as a Scientific Practice

3:00-4:00        Student panel (focused on math in science)

4:00-5:00        Matteo Tamburini, Zach Bunton & Cassandra Cook from NWIC (math)

5:00-6:00        Suzanne Brahmia keynote (SL150)

6:00-7:30        Reception

Unless specifically noted all events will take place in SL220, The SMATE Learning Resource Center.


Keynote & Workshop Descriptions:

Mathematization: A Tight Cognitive Blend of Content and Practices

Physics is sometimes viewed as applied mathematics, and understanding seems reserved for math whizzes. In this talk I will push back on this notion and argue that the math-physics relationship is more likely one of symbiotic cognition; each has a role to play in the conceptual development of the other.  From this perspective, developing student mathematization, i.e. the spontaneous and creative arithmetic and algebraic reasoning underlying physics, is a responsibility of physics instruction, regardless of the prerequisite level of mathematics required by the course. By learning to mathematize, students develop a richer understanding both of physics and of mathematics. By extension, the responsibility to cultivate, rather than assume, mathematization extends to all quantitative sciences.  I will present examples of student difficulties revealed by my research focused on arithmetic and algebraic contexts from calculus-based physics and chemistry. I’ll propose an instructional model that cultivates a cognitively blended mental space by providing opportunities for students to use mathematics creatively and generatively. I’ll discuss the potential of this model to help meet learning objectives associated with scientific reasoning with mathematical models.

Physics Invention Tasks: Developing Mathematical Creativity as a Scientific Practice

This workshop introduces PITs (Physics Invention Tasks(1)), curricular activities designed to foster mathematical creativity in the context of physical quantities and relationships. Affective measures show that traditional physics instruction results in students viewing physics as formulaic (Adams et al. 2006), which may contribute to the lack of diverse interest in physics as a discipline (Ross & Otero, 2013).  Important goals of PITs include developing expectations that physics should make sense, and strengthening beliefs that na├»ve views and mathematical sensemaking facilitate learning.

Research in mathematics education has shown that invention tasks help students use math creatively while priming them for subsequent formal instruction (Schwartz et al., 2011). PITs support the construction of quantitative physics concepts and relationships while contributing to a well-defined set of physics course norms in which struggle is communal, there are no dumb ideas, and creativity is valued.  These norms align well with authentic science practices and the NGSS practices, but contrast starkly with a stereotypical physics course in which there is little motivation for its algebraic reasoning. In this workshop participants will be introduced to the many PITs that are developed and validated. No physics background is assumed.

1 PDF icon Physics Intervention Tasks; Brahmia, Boudreaux & Kanim


Suzanne White Brahmia is an Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Washington, and a member of the UW Physics Education Group. She earned her B.S. in physics at the UW. She was a high school physics teacher in the Peace Corps in Gabon, West Africa and then attended graduate school at Cornell University, where her research focus was in experimental solid state physics.  She ultimately became involved in Physics Education Research, which stole her heart, and subsequently became the focus of her doctoral dissertation work at Rutgers University.  She has given numerous talks and published articles on the mathematization of introductory physics and on her efforts to improve equity in the representation of women and ethnic minorities amongst successful physics students. She served on the National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Undergraduate Physics Education that produced the report Adapting to a changing world - Challenges and opportunities in undergraduate physics education, and represented New Jersey in the NRC's development and implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards.   She was one of the original developers of the ISLE (Investigative Science Learning Environment) curriculum, and she is the co-author with Peter Lindenfeld of the critically acclaimed textbook, Physics, the First Science.

Matteo Tamburini (BS, Mathematics, UW; MS, Mathematics, WWU) has been teaching at Northwest Indian College since fall of 2009. Earlier, he taught at West Side High School in Newark, NJ. He believes deeply in the importance of faculty collaboration, and that mathematics can be a tool for liberation.

Zachariah Bunton, a Lummi High School graduate, has been tutoring at North-west Indian College for almost 10 years and teaching since 2015.

Cassandra Cook (BS in Physics from WWU) has been teaching mathematics at Northwest Indian College since the Fall of 2010.  She participated in a series of workshops put on by the Mathematics Education Collaborate beginning in the summer of 2011 along with several of her colleagues.  Since that summer she has been working closely with those same colleagues to reflect on and improve her practice.  She believes strongly in learning through collaboration, be it student-to-student, faculty-to-faculty, or discipline-to-discipline.