As an undergraduate studying linguistics as UC Berkeley, I took a course with notable linguist George Lakoff on mathematical cognition. I was deeply taken by the way that fundamental cognitive processes which manifested in everyday language could so elegantly capture the meaning and historical development of mathematical ideas.
After graduating, I was motivated to use the knowledge of cognition I had acquired in ways that would be consequential for people’s lives. I worked for two consulting firms for social change organizations, where I applied insights from cognitive linguistics to analyze the narrative landscape surrounding social issues.
Later, I found another practical outlet for my interest in cognition as a full time mathematics tutor. I found this work so rewarding that I pursued a credential as an educational therapist at Holy Names University. There, I met faculty member and neuropsychologist Charles Ahern, with whom I would eventually co-author a book on the implications of fundamental findings in neuropsychology for classroom teaching. Working on the book with Charles rekindled my interest in academic research on cognition and its practical applications, which motivated me to pursue a PhD in Education.
I applied to and subsequently entered the PhD program at UC Berkeley in 2010, and in large measure I found ways in which my academic interests in the nature of cognition and in supporting individuals’ development met some resolve. I identified two principal contexts of research linked to faculty members’ programs of work. One strand has been language, social interaction, and autism, which I have pursued through research and writing projects with Professor Laura Sterponi. The second area of interest has been on children’s developing mathematical understandings with particular regard for social and cultural processes, an area I have pursued in working with Professor Geoffrey Saxe. It is this second strand of work that I am engaging in my dissertation research.
Working with Professor Saxe, I have gained a breadth and depth of experience on research and writing. With Professor Saxe and other graduate students, I have been involved in the refinement and efficacy evaluation of an elementary mathematics curriculum. I have participated in writing several articles, including a literature review on culture-cognition relations and others on mathematics teaching and learning in classroom communities. I have also recently returned from a month of fieldwork in a remote mountainous region of Papua New Guinea with Professor Saxe, investigating elementary mathematics education. In a currently in press article that seeds my dissertation research, I took on the role of first author.