Design and Pitch Challenges in STEM: Merging Entrepreneurship and Mathematics Learning
To compete in a continually changing and increasingly technology-focused career landscape, students will need a deep, conceptual, and applied understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Yet, many students, especially students from underrepresented populations, perceive STEM to be disconnected from their interests and career aspirations. New curricular approaches are needed, especially in mathematics, that increase students’ career interest and engagement in STEM, while also supporting the learning of rich and targeted STEM content. In this project, researchers will develop and investigate nine design challenges built within a novel curricular framework for high school mathematics, the Design and Pitch Challenges in STEM. The Design and Pitch Challenges framework leverages entrepreneurial pitch competitions to support rich mathematics learning. Students work collaboratively to 1) build, test, and refine prototype STEM products; 2) design business plans to demonstrate product viability; and 3) pitch their products to a panel of judges. To support implementation, researchers will also build and investigate an online professional learning network for teachers. This project will explore whether and how entrepreneurship, through its flexible and interest-focused approach to career applications, can be an effective means for supporting the learning of targeted mathematics content and building career connections in the mathematics classroom. The project will also investigate how to best provide ongoing support to teachers through an online professional learning network while they implement the Design and Pitch Challenges. The research team will create nine math-focused design challenges, using an iterative process in the first year, piloting the challenges with about 50-100 local students. In years two and three, the team will test the challenges more broadly through partners at the non-profit JASON Learning, implementing capstone events in which approximately 2,400 students and 30 teachers in eight diverse school districts will engage in school-wide pitch competitions. Once completed, the materials will be widely distributed through the JASON network and freely available online. Across these two phases of the study, the research team will collect and analyze qualitative and quantitative data to understand students' and teachers' experiences with the challenges and online professional learning network. This project aims to launch a new approach to the teaching and learning of high school mathematics through open-ended, entrepreneurial design challenges that allow students to explore the utility of mathematics while fostering students' career interest and engagement in STEM. This project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.