U of G Partners to Improve Delivery of Math and Science Education

July 23, 2007 - News Release

The University of Guelph and Maplesoft, a leading provider of high-performance software, are partnering to develop innovative and efficient uses for technology in mathematics and science education.

The two will work together to provide students with state-of-the art technology tools aimed at giving them a more compelling and effective academic experience while making instruction delivery more efficient and student-focused.

"Helping students improve their problem-solving skills is especially critical during the first year of a university science education," said Prof. Anthony Vannelli, dean of Guelph's College of Physical and Engineering Science.

"Students right out of high school are often frustrated because they did not understand what level they would be expected to work at once they get to university. Our goal is to use this technology to help them overcome many of the issues that they are facing."

Vannelli added that there's plenty of great technology in existence today, but the challenge is to use these technologies to help teaching effectiveness in challenging math and science courses. This new partnership will have Guelph leading the way in adopting new techniques of teaching aimed at making education more efficient and contemporary, he said.

While Maplesoft's technology been in use in education for decades, the company has supplemented it recently with new mathematical software technologies such as intelligent assessment systems, and e-books. It is also exploring adding chat sites, messaging, blogging, and podcasts to math and science courses.

As part of this new partnership, Guelph will test and develop different education strategies based on this new technology framework, focusing on mathematics and science. Starting with the core calculus sequence of courses, the University will introduce learning options such as e-books, chat sites, messaging, blogging and podcasts. Eventually, the teaching techniques will be expanded to additional math classes and sciences courses, and to distance education offerings.

Maplesoft will provide the necessary software and service support. "This initiative is core to the future health of post-secondary system and competitiveness," said Tom Lee, Maplesoft's vice president of market deveopment.

"We absolutely have to leverage the creativity of our educators and our immense technological advantage to meet certain global challenges," he said.

Mathematics professor Jack Weiner will be the chief investigator for the initiative. He has been using Maplesoft products in his courses for years and will build on that experience. Weiner is the winner of the 2007 Teaching Excellence Award from the Central Student Association; a two-time 3M teaching award nominee; and has received both provincial and University teaching awards.

"I've seen technology make a profound difference for the student and for the instructor," he said, adding that class grade average and success rates have dramatically improved.

Incorporating educational technology like e‑books into courses also increases the efficiency in instruction, Weiner said. Teachers also have more time to focus on the needs of individual students in the classroom, and helps boost students' overall motivation, retention and comprehension.
"This new initiative will take some of these essential experiences and expand on them using all the new media that seem alien to so many teachers, but are completely integrated into the lives of today's students. This is truly exciting stuff," Weiner said.

U of G and Maplesoft have also submitted a proposal to the Ontario Research Fund's Research Excellence Program, asking the government to provide matching funding for the initiative.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Rebecca Kendall, 519-824-4120, Ext. 56039.

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1