Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center Receives Grant to Develop Pilot Program in Math and Science Teaching

PITTSBURGH, March 15, 2011 — The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) has received a $100,000 grant from the DSF Charitable Foundation to develop a pilot program to prepare high-school math and science teachers to effectively use computational modeling as part of K-12 learning. The grant extends Computation and Science for Teachers (CAST), PSC’s successful program — introduced in 2008 — that introduced many Southwest Pennsylvania science and math teachers to easy-to-use modeling and simulation as often powerful tools for classroom learning.

Cast Summer Workshop

The DSF grant funds a three-way effort among PSC and the Maryland Virtual High School Project (MVHS), which helped to pioneer the use of computational thinking in high-school learning, along with the Math & Science Collaborative (MSC) of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, which provides specialized educational services to Allegheny County’s 42 suburban school districts and five vocational/technical schools. Educators from these three organizations will plan and design a well defined professional development program for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teachers in western Pennsylvania to become leaders in integrating computational modeling and simulations in classroom learning.

“CAST,” says PSC director of education and outreach Cheryl Begandy, “proposes to bring to the classroom the same problem-solving, technology-rich approaches currently used in scientific research and in business. Introducing ‘cool’ technology into the classroom engages students,” she adds, “and increases their willingness to stay with subjects they may otherwise find too complicated or just uninteresting. Ultimately the goal is to help create the cyber-savvy workforce demanded by the 21st-century marketplace.”

Specific objectives of the CAST phase 2 pilot program, says Begandy, are:

  • to increase use of computational reasoning,
  • to improve the learning experience and engagement of students in math and science, and
  • to build capacity in western Pennsylvania for wider and sustained use of computational reasoning and tools.

Educators from PSC, MVHS and MSC met on January 20 for their first gathering to establish the outline of the pilot program and to set timelines and milestones.