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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Nicole L. Fonger

Fonger portrait

Assistant Professor


316A Carnegie Library


Research & Scholarship

Across all of my research I seek to better understand students’ meaningful learning of mathematics and the nature of support for that learning. I focus on linking research and practice to support and understand students’ meaningful algebra learning in urban public high schools. I network theories to better understand complex phenomena of teaching and learning mathematics in city school classrooms.

As a community-engaged researcher, I seek to build meaningful partnerships with school and community stakeholders with a focus on supporting students’ learning of algebra in urban public schools, classrooms, and teacher- student relationships. Please reach out if you’re interested in collaborating!

The three main strands and related guiding questions of my scholarship are: 1) meaningful learning, 2) learning and teaching trajectories, and 3) linking research, practice, and place.

  1. Meaningful Learning Strand. I study how students learn algebra and algebraic thinking in meaningful ways.
  • How does networking representational fluency and quantitative reasoning shed light on students’ meaningful learning of algebra?
  • How do English as a second language learners communicate their mathematical ideas through linguistic and visual resources or representations?

2. Teaching and Learning Trajectories Strand. I study how teachers support secondary students’ learning of algebra in school settings over time.

  • What is a learning trajectory for quadratic function?
  • How do theoretically grounded instructional moves and task design support shifts in students’ ways of understanding and ways of thinking?
  • How might mindfulness mitigate math anxiety?
  • What are ways teachers support students’ multidimensionality of experience and relations through heart-centered caring?

3. Linking Research, Practice, and Place Strand. I study how to link research and practice in urban public schools with a focus on anti-oppressive practices and policies for marginalized students.

  • How do practices and policies operate as gatekeepers to students’ opportunities to learn math in meaningful ways in urban public high schools?
  • How do research-practice partnerships operate as mechanisms to address equitable approaches to linking research, practice, and policy in high school algebra?
  • How can the effective communication among researchers and teachers be improved and more equitable? What role can visual stimulus notes / sketchnotes play in this process?
  • What are productive images and metaphors for linking research and practice (that help us move beyond a deficiency or ‘gap’ focused storyline).


Ph.D., Mathematics Education, Western Michigan University, August 2012. Dissertation: Characterizing and Supporting Change in Algebra Students' Representational Fluency in a CAS/Paper-and-Pencil Environment

M.A., Mathematics, Western Michigan University, December 2009

M.A., Mathematics Education, Western Michigan University, April 2008

B.A., Mathematics, minor in Spanish, University of Saint Thomas, May 2006. Magna cum laude

Active Research Funding

Fonger, N. L. (PI) Building Research-Practice Partnerships to Improve Student Outcomes in School Algebra. CUSE Grant, Syracuse University

Honors and Awards

Writing Across the Curriculum Faculty Fellow, Syracuse University, 2019-2020

Service, Teaching, and Research (STaR) Fellow of the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (AMTE), 2019 Cohort

Linking Research and Practice Outstanding Publication Award, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Mathematics Teacher. The winning article, "Equivalent Expressions Using CAS and Paper-and-Pencil Techniques" was authored by Nicole L. Fonger, published May 2014, pp. 688-93.

Courses Taught

  • Pre-calculus (MAT 194)
  • Calculus (MAT 295)
  • Methods and Curriculum in Teaching Mathematics (SED 413/613)
  • Linking Research and Practice in (Mathematics) Education (EDU 700/ MTD 700)
  • Internship in Mathematics Education (MTD 630)
  • Candidacy Student Teaching (EDU 508)
  • Research Seminar in Mathematics Education (MTD 830)
  • Undergraduate Research in Mathematics Education (MTD 330)
  • First Year Forum (CAS 101)

Recent Publications

Fonger, N. L. (2021). A Heart-Centered Stance: Receptivity to Algebra Teachers’ and Students’ Multidimensional Experiences. Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, 11(1), 225-264.

Fonger, N. L., Ellis, A., Dogan, M. F. (2020). A quadratic growth learning trajectory. Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 59, 1-22.

Fonger, N. L. (2019). Meaningfulness in representational fluency: An analytic framework for students’ creations, interpretations, and connections. Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 54

Mayer, J., Huntley, M. A., Fonger, N. L., Terrell, M. (2019). Professional learning through teacher-researcher collaborations. Mathematics Teacher, 112(5), 382-385.

Fonger, N. L., Stephens, A., Blanton, M., Isler, I., Knuth, E., Gardiner, A. (2018). Developing a learning progression for curriculum, instruction, and student learning: An example from mathematics education. Cognition and Instruction, 36(1), 30-55.