Campus wide, College of Science and Mathematics, Student Stories

Parsons researches how math students learn

By Justin Brennan | April 30, 2023
Dr. Ryan Thomas, Maddy Parsons, Dr. Emily Thomas. Photo by Ty Cornett

Charleston Southern University students are able to expand on their general knowledge and also find out more about the topics they are interested in. This is especially true for Maddy Parsons, who has been researching aspects of learning for mathematics students.

With Dr. Ryan Thomas and Dr. Emily Thomas, Parsons has been analyzing how students in the class Discrete Mathematics have grown in their knowledge in connection with online tools and virtual homework.

Before Parsons even decided on studying how a resource like the Internet can impact a student’s education, she had her heart set on doing this research project. She had taken the class in the spring of 2021 and loved it.

This passion for the class was enough for Parsons to earn a research grant from the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities. She had already earned a grant from the organization for a previous research project. With this support, she was able to start looking into
what could be discovered within this field.

From there, she worked with the Thomases over the summer to find a research topic that they could dig into. And since Discrete Mathematics is where students begin to start writing their own proofs, they found that discovering how students grow into this process would be best for her research.

During this process, they discovered a company called Cengage. Cengage focuses on developing new ways for students to learn, especially virtually. The team saw the potential that this held and shifted their focus to how students grow using online tools.

They began working with the Discrete Mathematics class, which is taught by Emily Thomas, in order to put their research into practice as the semester began and to set up research protocols.

The research process within the classroom involved giving Cengage to the students and allowing them to work from there. They gave students problem-solving assessments, observed class daily, and interviewed students on their experiences throughout the process.

Once the spring semester began, they expanded on it. They worked with a publisher of textbooks who helped the team expand on how textbooks can work in tandem with virtual assignments. This was also made a part of Parsons’ senior project and capstone class.

There is still more room for this research to continue, and that is something that Parsons hopes to expand on. She will begin pursuing her PhD after this semester and continue studying math and how it is incorporated into education.

Justin Brennan is a senior Charleston Southern student, interning with the Marketing and Communication office.

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