Texas Tech University’s Yaunlin Zhang, an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering, is working to develop data science curriculum for high-school students.
Data science is a complicated convergence of computer science, mathematics and statistics not normally taught at the high school level. But Zhang believes developing a curriculum on the subject, based on the principles of mathematical logic and problem solving, will be beneficial to future generations.
“We will provide a way to connect these concepts using basic ideas based around logic,” Zhang said. “Understanding the basic concepts will help students transition to higher-level education, and high-level research will benefit from students’ having this understanding at an earlier stage.”
Incrementally funded by a $3 million National Science Foundation grant, the project titled “Collaborative Research: Fostering Virtual Learning of Data Science Foundations with Mathematical Logic for Rural High School Students” brings together researchers from Texas Tech and the University of Florida, along with industry partners, to develop the new curriculum.
Zhang also is joined on the project by fellow Texas Tech computer science associate professor Victor Sheng and Texas Tech’s Aaron Zimmerman, an assistant professor in the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum & Instruction.
“The long-term goal is to have an effective new course,” Zhang explained. “But because the material is very new, no one has ever unified it. To figure out how we can unify these disciplines we need to carry out a lot of research. That’s what makes this a good science project!
“The research we have planned will help us understand the students better. We hope that as we teach real problem-solving skills to students we can make discoveries about how the students react to this new approach and, if there are difficulties for them, how we can help the students with their understanding of it.”
Zhang and his team want it to be deliverable via computer and accessible in rural areas. He believes, despite the seemingly complicated nature of data science, finding a way to unify the concepts involved will be beneficial to students across multiple disciplines and in their daily lives.
“Humans have natural logic and problem-solving abilities,” Zhang said. “So, if we find a new way to teach these concepts and strengthen the logical approach to problem-solving, we believe it could have a huge impact on the educational system as a whole.”