Citizens need to develop ecological data literacy to make informed decisions about global environmental issues such as climate change. The Numbers in Nature, Math on the Mountain project brings together K-12 teachers and scientists to build teachers’ capacity to improve their students’ data literacy through the use of authentic data about Oregon’s natural environment. Math and science teachers collaborated with scientists at the Andrews Long-Term Ecological Research site and Mt. Bachelor Observatory to explore ecology and math content and to co-develop a series of curriculum units that use authentic data and contexts from these two places. The learning cycle included a planning phase, two place-based teacher retreats, curriculum enactment with instructional coaching, ongoing graduate coursework, an ongoing regional network of teachers and scientists, and data collection through surveys and interviews. Data literacy represents the intersection of the math and science practices that are major components of the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. We investigated the following research questions: 1) What are the perceived barriers to enacting the math and science practices that support data literacy? 2) How do collaborations among mathematics and science teachers, and scientists support teachers’ sense-making and enactment of these practices?
29 math and science teachers (grades 4 – 12) in teams from 12 schools in Central Oregon participated in the year-long project. The participants were a mix of elementary (9), middle school (12), and high school (8) teachers. Over the course of the project, the teachers enacted curriculum units to help students make sense of natural phenomena and advance their data literacy. Examples include: 1) a 4th-grade landslide and erosion unit that introduced landslide data from the Andrews LTER site followed by erosion table experiments and development of erosion models, and 2) a unit that engaged 7th-grade math students in sampling of snow water equivalent in their schoolyards to teach volume. Teachers reported a variety of barriers to building their students’ data literacy, including math anxiety, lack of access to appropriate datasets, and curriculum alignment within and across schools. Potential solutions reported included professional development, more coherent planning, and engagement of students with relevant datasets. Collaboration was a powerful experience for both the scientists and teachers. Scientists reported a strong respect for the resourcefulness and creativity of the teachers, and teachers reported deep changes in their understanding and use of science and math in their teaching.