NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $2.55 million grant to Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and two partner institutions to advance high school instruction of biology and mathematics by emphasizing the mathematical methods that underlie modern biology.
The five-year grant, led by Rutgers, includes the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP) and Colorado State University. The project aims to close a gap between math and biology instruction in high school courses by creating materials that address mathematical principles of gene mapping, population trends, public health and the spread of diseases, including contemporary threats such as bird flu and bioterrorism.
"Modern biology is increasingly an information science, closely tied to the tools and methods of mathematics," said Fred Roberts, principal investigator on the grant and director of the university's Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS). "Traditionally, however, students who liked biology may have thought math was irrelevant or too difficult. We need to teach it in a way that engages aspiring biologists."
Roberts, also a professor of mathematics, added that by bringing more biology into the mathematics classroom, the project team expects to get students more excited about the usefulness of mathematics. He noted that DIMACS is a good place to start addressing this need, as it has been a leader in improving math and science education in the elementary, middle and high school grades for years.
The NSF grant will fund development of instructional modules that can be used in high school biology and mathematics courses without having to change the curriculum. Teams of teachers, writers and content experts will prepare modules, train teachers to field-test the materials and evaluate the results.
The modules will focus on three major themes: