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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Nicole L. Fonger

Fonger portrait

Assistant Professor


316A Carnegie Library


Research Interests

Across all of my research I seek to better understand students’ meaningful learning of mathematics and the nature of supports for that learning. To date my work has focused on students' learning of algebra and algebraic thinking across K-12 schooling with an emphasis on secondary school algebra in urban public classrooms. As a design researcher I seek to both understand and support opportunities to learn mathematics in rich and conceptual ways. This is aligned with the adage, “if you want to change something, you have to understand it, and if you want to understand something, you have to change it.

I have several current and ongoing projects, listed below. Please contact me directly if you are interested in collaborating on any of these research projects. I would love to hear from undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff and postdocs, teachers, teacher leaders, and community members.

Reality Math Circle Partnership with Syracuse City School District (begins Fall 2018)

This project has three Foci:

  1. How do students experience meaningful learning of mathematics? How do youth narrate their experiences through photovoice (students take photo and write text of experience—What is algebra? Who is algebra for? What environments support your learning of algebra?).
  2. How do the components of reality pedagogy (vis-a-vis @chrisemdin #HipHopEd) play out in an after-school enrichment opportunity? See a video I created on reality pedagogy here<>.
  3. How might a research-practice partnership support mathematics educators’ understandings of broader tensions of meaningful learning of mathematics in a high-stakes testing culture?

Learning Trajectories in Algebra

Focus: A learning trajectory integrates conceptual learning goals, mathematical instructional supports and tasks, and characterizations of students’ conceptions vis-a-vis their discursive activity. How does students’ conceptual understanding grow in relation to instructional supports? What is unique about a learning trajectory approach in modeling learning and supports for learning? See a video I created on learning trajectories here<>.

Heart-Centered Pedagogy

Focus: What does it mean to teach mathematics with kindness in mind? How are cognition, emotion, social relation, and sensation experienced in math learning? How do these dimensions of experience amplify meaningful math learning — especially at the intersection of mathematics and mindfulness? How might mindfulness mitigate math anxiety? How might

Linking Research and Practice

Focus: How are community, collaboration, and communication central to linking research and practice in mathematics education? What are productive images and metaphors for linking research and practice (that help us move beyond a deficiency or ‘gap’ focused storyline). Here is an example of a video I created on linking research to practice.<> My goal is to create additional video-based content of research to support broader and clearer dissemination of research.

Representational Fluency and Meaning-Making

Focus: Representational fluency involves creating, interpreting, and connecting multiple representations in doing and communicating about mathematics. I believe engaging in these processes is one way to support to meaning-making about mathematical ideas. Here is a video of this work.<>


* 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

Honors and Awards

* Linking Research and Practice Outstanding Publication Award, 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.

* Graduate Research and Creative Scholar Award, Western Michigan University, Department of Mathematics, 2011-2012

* All University Teaching Effectiveness Award, Western Michigan University, 2010-2011