Alex Vasquez ’20 Gains Rare Grant in Pursuit of Teaching Math

The sophomore education major received an REU grant from the National Science Foundation.

Photo of Alex Vazquez in chapelAlex Vasquez ’20 has combined his love of math and desire to teach into a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) grant from the National Science Foundation. A secondary education major with a concentration in mathematics, Vasquez will take part in the eight-week summer research experience from June 4 to July 27 at Illinois State University.

As part of the experience, Vasquez and the other participants will explore, in teams of three, several research topics in discrete mathematics with emphasis on experimentation, conjecture, careful justification, and clear, precise reporting. An added emphasis is on the development and implementation, by the REU participants, of a one-week mathematics research camp for 12 high school students from the Chicago Public School district.

The main objective of the project is to provide research opportunities for students like Vasquez, helping them become highly qualified teachers who can meet national demands for increased student proficiency and can adapt to the changing needs of our technological society.

In his first two years at Manhattan College, Vasquez has completed teaching observations at MS 37, a nearby middle school and Riverdale-Kingsbridge Academy, a high school a short walk away from Manhattan College. Vasquez has also worked at Connetquot High School in the area he grew up on Long Island.

“Since I was little, I’ve always been good at math,” Vasquez said. “I’ve always enjoyed helping people with math. It’s something that I’ve found that I like to do.”

Vasquez credits faculty mentors such as Sr. Maryann Jacobs, Ed.D., associate professor of education, Angel Pineda, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics, and Kathryn Weld, Ph.D., professor of mathematics, for pushing Vasquez to look into summer research programs and expand his academic horizons.

“Alex will be exploring things he hasn’t seen in the classroom and really trying his hand on open-ended questions,” Weld explains. “He’ll be able to work in groups with others and build a mathematical community, and be able to share ideas and bounce questions on how to solve something no one has solved yet with his peers.”

After his summer in Illinois, Vasquez will begin his junior year with a combination of math and education courses, and increased hours of observation and classroom work at schools in the Bronx. He eventually wants to teach calculus or linear algebra with an eye toward receiving his doctorate in mathematics or mathematics education.