A Q&A with Dan Ray and Lewis Hosie

This Q&A first appeared on the Carnegie Math Pathways Blog and is posted here with permission. 

Carnegie Math Pathways at WestEd recently released its course solutions, Statway and Quantway, as Open Educational Resources (OER). The materials are openly available now, just in time for instructors to consider implementing the curricula for fall 2024 courses.

So what is OER, why does it matter that Statway and Quantway are available as OER, and how will students and educators be served by this transition? Dan Ray and Lewis Hosie, Carnegie Math Pathways’ Operations Director and Development and Implementation Director, respectively, discuss the basics of OER, Statway and Quantway, and why the decision to go OER is such an important step toward creating a more equitable system of mathematics education that empowers all students to advance toward their goals.

Can you begin by telling us what Open Educational Resources are?

Hosie: Open Educational Resources, or OER, are part of a philosophy grounded in sharing, equity, and access within the education space. An open license can be applied to the result of any creative endeavor—for example, you might see a license that indicates openness on anything from photographs to code to a piece of fiction writing. In the education context, we think of OER materials as teaching, learning, and research materials that have a license that grants users access to those materials at no cost and, depending on the license, permission to modify, update, and/or rebuild those materials.

In addition to making curricular materials more affordable and accessible to all students, OER has contributed to the increased adoption of open practices in general, such as open peer review processes and open access publishing of research findings, across the education space.

Why did Carnegie Math Pathways at WestEd decide to license its courses as OER now?

Ray: For over a decade, Carnegie Math Pathways has researched and tested specific solutions designed to help more students succeed and advance in their education. We initially partnered with educators to develop Statway and Quantway and have since worked to improve and study the impact of the curricula, the instructional approach, and the social and emotional elements of learning, which together make up our course solutions.

We’re now at a stage where we feel that Statway and Quantway have demonstrated their effectiveness. We have years of evidence showing that the approach and curriculum have been impactful.

However, we’ve also received feedback about hurdles to utilizing the course solutions. To teach the courses, institutions had to be a part of the research program, so we had to enter into agreements with institutions that required institutional buy-in, which was a barrier for some faculty who were ready to jump on board, but didn’t have decision-making authority. Another barrier was the costs, which were often passed along to students and could be prohibitive for them.

So it made a lot of sense for us to open access to Statway and Quantway curricular materials while maintaining the instructional approach and supports. Making our research and the course materials available through a CC BY-NC license—a type of Creative Commons license—will ease course adoption and alleviate some of the financial burden on students.

You mention that you’re maintaining the instructional approach and supports. Let’s talk a bit about Statway and Quantway. What are they, what are the approach and supports that are used, and why will open access to these course solutions be helpful to students and educators?

Ray: Quantway and Statway are sets of course curricula around either quantitative reasoning, which is the Quantway curricula, or statistical reasoning, which is the Statway curricula.

The thing that really makes them different is their approach. First, these courses are designed to be taught in a way that is active and collaborative, different from the lecture-based, direct instructional approach many might think of in mathematics. The instructor for a Statway or Quantway course is seen as a facilitator of conversation and learning. The materials are highly contextualized for relevancy, so instead of doing mathematical procedures in isolation, students are discussing mathematical approaches to solving problem tasks situated in familiar and real-world scenarios. In traditional instruction, the word problems are often at the end of the lesson, whereas in Statway and Quantway, the word problems start the lesson, engaging students right away. Contextualized problem situations enable students to clearly see the applicability of the mathematics.

Second, our approach pays attention to social and emotional learning, from community building to fostering a growth mindset to addressing challenges like math and test anxiety. Exercises and reflective activities are embedded throughout the courses to address and attend to these noncognitive aspects of learning, making them a seamless part of the learning experience for students.

Hosie: There’s something particularly impactful about what the Quantway and Statway “special sauce” produces in terms of mathematics learning experiences.

Working within a network of institutions, we would hear from students and instructors about students’ Quantway or Statway learning experiences. We would hear that students’ relationship with mathematics was completely transformed, shifting entirely from someone who does not believe they’re capable of doing or liking mathematics to someone who looks forward to going to the grocery store or consuming data from a news report because they can apply mathematics to that situation and make sense of it. We know this has happened for thousands of students over the decade of Carnegie Math Pathways’ existence.

And now, with these materials being OER, those experiences are going to be available for a much larger number of students. It’s not just about cost. It’s about providing educators and students everywhere with access to an engaging and empowering math learning experience.

What supports do you offer educators to help them fully adopt and utilize Statway and Quantway for their classrooms?

Ray: Carnegie Math Pathways’ offers professional development focused on helping instructors who are new to teaching in this way. If an instructor picks up this curriculum, they’re probably going to look at it and think, ‘Wow, this looks quite different from what I’m used to.’ Viewing themselves as a facilitator is probably a new experience for many, and building social and emotional supports into the curricula may be new as well. We want to support instructors in making that transition.

That’s why we offer training for faculty new to this approach. These trainings are always led by experienced Quantway and Statway instructors, ensuring that faculty learn from those who are actively teaching these courses.

We also want to help educators use the OER materials effectively. Many faculty are familiar with the notion of OER, but might not be as familiar with licensing and permissions. So we have a resource bank that instructors can access through our OER website that explains what the license provides in terms of permissions and gives examples of recommended ways for attribution to be given on modifications made to the materials.

Similarly, it’s important to convey how we envision modification and adaptation of the materials. We’ve provided guidance for faculty around key considerations for redesign projects. We want to empower instructors to remix and modify these resources to best serve their students while knowing there are resources to guide their modifications.

Hosie: We believe instructors have the desire and the expertise to take ownership over the materials. But they won’t be on their own. As Dan mentioned, we provide just-in-time support so they can make sense of the scope of an idea they have and determine what it would take to implement it while maintaining critical design and instructional aspects. In addition to static resources already available that help guide modification efforts, we are exploring ongoing professional development opportunities for faculty who want to enhance their course and task design knowledge to further support the tailoring of Statway and Quantway while maintaining the research-backed design and approach.

The curriculum materials have always been faculty driven, and this shift to OER is the most recent, perhaps most major, demonstration of that commitment to and belief in educators having ownership of the curricular materials they teach.

So what are the exciting elements of Statway and Quantway OER that you’d like educators to know about and take advantage of?

Hosie: Statway and Quantway OER give instructors the full range of freedom to mold these materials to best meet the needs of their students and institutional programs. For instance, if there’s an institution that has a focus on nursing career tracks, this shift to OER grants instructors at that institution the ability to infuse Statway or Quantway with rich and meaningful examples that are relevant to that career trajectory, which helps prepare students for subsequent courses and the workforce. It enables specific and authentic expertise to be built into and reflected in the curricular materials.

Additionally, we were very intentional about the format. Carnegie Math Pathways’ commitment to access and equity doesn’t stop at making the materials openly available through OER—we wanted to ensure a collaborative and easy-to-access learning space for students and educators to engage with the materials. We thought about the experience from the perspective of students and educators and evaluated which elements were needed to truly support the kind of collaboration we envisioned for these materials. That’s what led us to choose Google Docs for interaction with the materials. It is a familiar platform to most students and instructors, it enables users to access the materials via any device with an internet connection, sidestepping potential barriers to access, and it also gives instructors the ability to make as many copies as they need—including for themselves to play around with redesign or contextualization ideas. Or they can make copies to distribute to students.

Google’s integrated ecosystem makes engaging with these materials more seamless. For example, if each of the members of a study group open the same Google Doc, everyone can enter a Google Meet space from that document (if using Chrome), share their screen, and work through the mathematics together. This keeps the experience contained to a single online space without the need for multiple tools.

Another attractive built-in component is the extensive language translation features. When you go into a Google Doc and use the translation options, you can translate to almost any language in existence in a matter of seconds, although you still need to have a native speaker check the translation. This opens up intriguing opportunities and possibilities for expanding more equitable access both inside and outside the United States.

Ray: For example, we’ve been working with the University of the Free State in South Africa and have adapted versions of Quantway and Statway for the South African context. And we’ve engaged in similar cultural contextualization work with math faculty at tribal colleges here in the United States. You can imagine instructors from other countries and marginalized communities gaining access to these materials, potentially translating them, and modifying the problems to reflect their local communities and identities.

In terms of innovation, what excites me is the potential for what educators will do with these lessons. It really provides an opportunity to increase relevancy in ways that could be hyper-local to the institution and to the students taking these courses. Right now, we have some excellent examples of side-by-side lessons—one with the original context, one with a completely different context, but both with the same mathematical learning outcomes. We have very nice exemplars, but we are also developing more supports to really empower faculty to contextualize and localize the curricula.

Side by side lesson comparison of same lesson contextualized for different locations and learners - one on left featuring U.S. labor statistics to inform problems and one on the right using South African economic data to inform the problems.Carnegie Math Pathways’ move to OER helps enhance the accessibility and affordability of Statway and Quantway for students while empowering instructors to modify the curricula to best suit students’ needs and contexts.

Ready to get started? Explore Statway and Quantway OER and download the course materials.