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Twenty-year Las Cruces educator achieves fellowship for education research

In a technology-oriented world, many young students may find playing video and computer games much more fascinating than completing worksheets or working out of a math book. Karen Trujillo and other faculty and staff involved in the Math Snacks project at New Mexico State University understand this, which is why they try to incorporate video games and computer animation into math education.

Trujillo, post-doctoral researcher and program manager of the Math Snacks project, has worked as a school principal, teacher, math and technology specialist and professional development provider and said she is happy to get the opportunity to do research in this area. Because of this research, Trujillo is one of 10 recipients of the 2011 Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education Fellowship.

"I have been an educator for 20 years, and I really enjoy it, but I have always been interested in the research aspect as well, so it's good to have that opportunity now," Trujillo said. "The CADRE Fellowship will give me the opportunity to look at education from a different angle."

As part of the Math Snacks project, Trujillo is part of the team that develops two-to three-minute animations and computer games to help middle school students understand math concepts. Trujillo and her colleagues also are doing a pilot study where they observe nine teachers and more than 600 students in Las Cruces and Gadsden schools, testing out the Math Snacks products to see how students respond to them. The pilot study is helping the team prepare for a large scale experimental study that will take place next year throughout the country.

"Nowadays, kids are very technology-oriented. They grow up that way," Trujillo said. "The animations give children a new way of looking at things, and the fun and appealing images help the concepts stick in their minds."

The CADRE Fellowship program is funded by the National Science Foundation and supports researchers and developers who participate in Discovery Research K-12 projects on teaching and learning in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

CADRE Fellow activities include attending the principle investigator meeting in Washington, D.C., where participants will get the opportunity to network with CADRE Fellows and principle investigators from across the country. After the meeting, the fellows will engage in an ongoing community of emerging researchers and developers with access to the resources of the CADRE network. Participants will receive a $1,000 stipend to cover travel and lodging for the meeting. Trujillo said the meeting will be valuable because it will help her network and develop relationships with other people in the STEM field. She also hopes to learn how to successfully publish articles and to improve research opportunities in the STEM field at NMSU.

"NMSU does a lot of great things, especially in the math and science fields," Trujillo said. "It is great that people from STEM and the College of Education can work cooperatively together, and this fellowship will help increase that partnership as well as increase ideas and opportunities in the STEM field at NMSU."

For more information, visit http://cadrek12.org/cadre-fellows-program or contact Trujillo at ktrujill@nmsu.edu.