Astronomy as an Engaging Hook for Preservice Teachers and Secondary Mathematics Students

Type Conference Paper
Names Eric Jon Hooper, G. Dickinson, J. Pierson, H. Vice, M. Hemenway, K. Oehler
Proceedings Title Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society
Conference Name American Astronomical Society, AAS Meeting #211, #05.11
Volume 39
Pages 734
Date December 1, 2007
Library Catalog NASA ADS
Abstract Astronomy is a powerful hook to excite people's wonder about the universe, fire their imaginations, and engage them in science and mathematics. We employed this allure to help preservice secondary mathematics and science teachers develop the skills to deliver unified multidisciplinary inquiry and project-based instruction to their future students. Simultaneously, high school mathematics students enjoyed applications of the algebra and geometry they had learned in a series of lessons centered on the building and utilization of Dobsonian telescopes during all-day in-school field trips. These lesson elements, both for the preservice teachers and high school students, were refined over several semesters as part of the field experience component of the Project Based Instruction course in the nationally recognized (see e.g., Rising Above the Gathering Storm, 2007, NAP) UTeach program at the University of Texas at Austin (; see also Hooper, E. J. et al. 2003, BAAS, 35, 1304). Preservice teachers who elect the astronomy field experience divide into two groups. The first group prepares to lead high school students through the final stages of constructing a simple Dobsonian telescope based on plans from the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers ( After learning some basic optics (Siegel et al. 2008, Mathematics Teacher, in press; and Siegel et al. 2008, BAAS, Austin meeting, in press), the high school students undertake the most mathematically rich portions of the build, including measuring the focal length of the primary mirror and the placement and alignment of the secondary mirror. Since it is not practical to both build and utilize telescopes in one day, the second group of preservice teachers prepares to return to the "build" high school from the previous semester to engage the students in a variety of lessons using the telescopes. EJH acknowledges support from an NSF AAPF (AST-0104456) at the University of Texas, Austin.
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