Countdown to VOICES, presenter profile #17: Professor Lesser

This post is the 17th in a series of brief profiles of people who will be presenting their work at VOICES, a first-of-its-kind online conference on using music to teach STEM, on Sept. 27-28, 2017.

How does science-based music fit into the general context of engaging teaching? According to UTEP’s Larry Lesser, music is one type (among many) of educational fun. At VOICES, however, Larry will focus on fun of the musical variety, as indicated in the following abstract of his presentation.

We posit that a key factor in how effective songs are in students’ motivation, engagement, and learning is how interactive the song experience is for students. We articulate and tour a continuum of interactivity, illustrated with examples that are grounded in the context of core learning objectives in mathematics and statistics for students in high school or college, but applicable to virtually any subject matter. Our current NSF-funded Project SMILES (Student-Made Interactive Learning with Educational Songs for introductory statistics), loosely inspired by the Mad LibsTM phrasal word template game, has high interactivity by having students supply pre-song inputs (contextual examples or conceptual connections) that prime them to learn from the ensuing song — a song which is readily played back to them with their inputs! I will discuss an example from Project SMILES, whose effectiveness is being assessed this year by randomized experiments coordinated by my fellow grant PIs Dennis Pearl and John Weber. The big picture tour (which incorporates audience polling questions!) will be followed by lively discussion tailored to VOICES attendees’ interests. We also share references and resources for exploration beyond this session.

Larry is a statistics/mathematics education professor at The University of Texas at El Paso, where he’s been since 2004. He has 100 peer-reviewed papers and books, two National Science Foundation grants (with Penn State’s Dennis Pearl and Perimeter College at Georgia State University’s John Weber), and has won statewide teaching awards (e.g., UT-ROTA, Minnie Stevens Piper Professor). His math-and-music outreach has yielded 70 published songs, a dozen national contest awards, dozens of conference performances or radio/TV appearances, five journal articles, and an issue of The Mini Page.

Larry is one of over 40 people who will present their ideas, insights, and investigations at VOICES. To have full access to all presenters and their presentations, please register for the conference. It’s only $10!

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