Faculty Corner – Dr. Kansas Conrady

Last fall Kansas Conrady joined the mathematics department as an assistant professor in mathematics education. She received her doctorate from Oklahoma State University and was previously working at the University of Oklahoma.

 

(1) Please tell us a little about yourself
I’m from Oklahoma where I was at the University of Oklahoma. Before that I taught middle and high school in the Fort Worth area. When I’m not working, I enjoy long distance cycling, Crossfit, and weightlifting.

(2) Tell us a little about your research interests.
I’m most interested in the mathematics teacher education pipeline. That is, identifying and preparing students that eventually decide they want to teach and pursue a career in teaching. More specifically I study informal learning experiences in teacher education that provide long term support for the transition that comes in early career experiences. Moreover, mathematical thinking is messy and rarely a simple polished process – I enjoy speaking and writing about how people actually think when they’re doing and learning mathematics, such as metacognition and discourse in mathematics classrooms.

(3) Why is your research topic important?
There is a high turnover rate in secondary mathematics teachers! When a teacher decides teaching isn’t for them, they must find a new career and society must train a new teacher. The first couple years in the classroom are not easy, and many times teachers enter “survival mode” to make it through the first few years to navigate the environment and established norms. My research can help teachers be true to their identity and not abandon the ideas and skill they’ve learned.

(4) When did you start becoming interested in teacher education?
I watched many new teachers, including myself and close friends, struggle with assimilation and survival in our first years. Through continued study I have looked for ways to make progress toward making it better.

Once I came to understand that there was a lot of messy thinking that happens inside the mathematicians head, I was better able to understand that it was not only okay, but normal, to have to work through problems and not just know them right away. Then as I continued to make sense of sharing rough draft thinking and started incorporating this in my teaching I saw changes to student attitudes, beliefs, and practices in regards to both teaching and the learning of mathematics. Thus I like to share understandings about the impact of this to others.

(5) Tell me about how you teach your courses.
Each course is very different, but with one common thread: they aren’t like many mathematics courses students have experienced before. I like to answer questions with questions that promote thinking and understanding. Rather than telling the student a specific step-by-step list of procedures to follow, I like to help students develop an understanding that will have a lasting effect.

I love to encourage thinking and talking and thus there is a great deal of collaborative work that is done in class: we all learn from each other and gain insights from the thinking of others.

(6) Who has influenced you most in life?
I can’t point to any one person – but more so my communities and networks. I always take in information about everything around me and process that information to learn more about not only myself and the people around me, but also the systems that are always at play around us.

(7) What is your favorite part of your position here at UCA?
The student, faculty, and staff are so incredibly friendly and helpful! With just a few questions I have filled both my recreational calendar as well as find places to eat out for the next several months. The physical campus is also a great place to be: the luscious trees across campus make for a wonderful atmosphere.

(8) What is the most challenging part of your job?
I would have to say balancing personal and professional life, but I’m pretty sure everyone has that challenge. So more specifically I’ll say that it is trying to grow relationships with the area schools while also being available and present on campus. Also, I’ve met so many people in the past two months, and I need to keep them all straight!