Fellow Profile: Cayla Baynes
- G-TEAMS Cohort: 2012-13
- Graduate Program: Mathematics
- Teacher Partner: Danielle Othon and Cindy Wong
- School: Elvira Elementary School
- Grade level: 3rd grade
- Topics: 3rd grade mathematics and science
"Mathematics is the door and key to the sciences."--Roger Bacon
Cayla's research interests are in neurophysiology and tissue engineering. Her research focuses on developing modalities (auditory, electrotactile, vibrotactile) to provide artificial proprioception (the sense of limb position) of the arm and hand in healthy humans in hopes of translating the results to individuals with prosthetic arms. Understanding the role of the proprioception in regards to the hand could result in more functional prosthetic hands.
Cayla is working with Danielle Othon and Cindy Wong at Elvira Elementary School. One of Cayla's primary goals is to encourage students to discover the underlying current of mathematics in science through hands-on activities. The students investigated the relationship between body size and brain size. They made observations on several preserved brains generously provided by Dr. Oland of the Tucson Chapter for the Society of Neuroscience. By combining those scientific observations with their previous knowledge of animal sizes, the students learned about the difference between correlation and causation.
Building confidence in mathematical problem solving is another of Cayla's goals. Some students are too afraid to tackle a problem on their own if they don't remember the specific procedure for working through the problem. Inquiry-based lessons help students develop a stronger conceptual understanding of math because it motivates them to reason through a problem. It is okay to make mistakes along the way because those are valuable learning opportunities for the future.
I have learned that students often don't connect the mathematical or scientific concepts they learn in the classroom with their daily lives. Most students can memorize the definition of a scientific conception and repeat it in their own words. However, most, if not all, of the elementary students in the lower grades can think of their own examples in their daily lives related to those scientific principles. It is very rewarding when students actively participate in the science experiments and then discuss how the concepts could be applied in other situations.
I am learning about a great deal of flexibility required in presenting lessons. The students look forward to the weekly hands-on science and math activities that I prepare. I attempt to bring in demonstrations that can be done in a certain amount of time, but I quickly find out that the students are taking longer than anticipated and adjust accordingly. Although the students may have previously gone through the material in class, they may need a refresher. Other times, these activities provide a valuable opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the material because it is presented in a different situation.