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Dr Elena Prieto-Rodriguez

Lecturer

School of Education (Mathematics)

Re-energising maths education

There has been a massive drop in the number of advanced mathematics students in the last decade, accompanied by poor results across all school years.

Dr Elena Prieto-Rodriguez believes this has significant implications for Australia's ability to produce the next generation of engineers, physicists, chemists and software engineers – the innovators we need to skill Australia into the future.

Dr Elena Prieto-Rodriguez

An expert in theoretical computer science and mathematics education from the University of Newcastle's School of Education, Prieto-Rodriguez is on a mission to shape the next generation of mathematics teachers so they can re-energise Australia's mathematics education.

"Mathematics is essential in engineering and science degrees, and we know there is a shortage of students taking these subjects in Australia," said Prieto-Rodriguez.

"Somehow we have to convey the relevance of maths to students, to show them how important this is if you want to be an innovator."

She is currently engaged in the Inspiring Mathematics and Science in Teacher Education (IMSITE) project. This cross-institutional study involves six Australian universities that are looking at the training of pre-service maths teachers in a bid to engage more students to continue in their mathematics education.

The hope is that these teachers will be able to convey to students not only the beauty of mathematics, but its relevance to other subjects and future career paths.

"The other issue is that maths is very difficult, so we need teachers who are really proficient, not just at a secondary level but also in primary," said Prieto-Rodriguez.

Somehow we have to convey the relevance of maths to students, to show them how important this is if you want to be an innovator.

Having recently developed a suite of online courses for maths teachers, which enable better interaction with online instructors, her research has found that blended teaching is more successful if it offers discussion forums.

Prieto-Rodriguez's interest in maths education started during her undergraduate years, and she spent 18 months training maths teachers in a bullet-marked university in El Salvador before moving to Canada to commence a postgraduate degree in computer science.

Being an expert in theoretical computer science as well as mathematics education has huge advantages. She is able to understand and impart the value of computational thinking in modern teaching. Prieto-Rodriguez believes computer science is about much more than programming – it's about imagination and innovation.

"Every time you google or use your smartphone, you run algorithms that were designed using computational thinking, which is a particular way of thinking about how to implement ideas with hardware or software," said Prieto-Rodriguez.

"Many people don't understand the work behind the internet, and we're trying to introduce this into the curriculum at a primary and secondary level all over the world."

Her expertise in computational thinking has led to several projects, which are partly funded by Google, to engage school teachers and students and fill gaps in Australia's skill base.

For example, she ran a series of professional development workshops for teachers that aimed to promote computer science and provide the skills and resources necessary to teach it. A major sticking point, she found, was that most teachers did not fully understand what computational thinking was – believing it to be solely about programming.She has also worked with two local schools in Newcastle to take part in Code.org, an international not-for-profit initiative involving 45 million students worldwide that aims to introduce computer science into schools.


PhD and Research Masters expressions of interest 

If you are a prospective PhD or Research Masters student and are interested in STEM Education, please email Elena Prieto-Rodriguez.

Re-energising maths education - Elena Prieto-Rodriguez

Re-energising maths education

Dr Elena Prieto-Rodriguez believes there are significant implications for Australia's ability to produce the next generation of engineers, physicists, chemists.

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Career Summary

Biography

My professional academic research career encompasses two specialised areas: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education (STEM), and Theoretical Computer Science.

Since finishing my Honours Bachelor Degree in Mathematics/Mathematics Education I have held several positions at different universities. Shortly after completing my degree, during the academic year 1998-1999, I held a position at the National University of El Salvador. I was the on-site coordinator of a Masters program in Mathematics Education. In 2000 I commenced a postgraduate degree in Computer Science at The University of Victoria, Canada. Shortly after,  I was offered a scholarship to study a PhD in Computer Science at the University of Newcastle, Australia. I started my doctoral studies in September 2001, completing a PhD in Theoretical Computer Science in 2005. This was followed by an appointment as a post-doctoral fellow at the Newcastle Bioinformatics Initiative (now Priority Research Centre for Bioinformatics, Biomarker Discovery and Information-Based Medicine). Subsequently I took up a full-time research position with the Australian Research Council Linkage project Engineering Choices, Engineering Futures.

In 2012 I was appointed Lecturer at the School of Education of the University of Newcastle. I am currently the Program Convenor of the Bachelor of Teaching Secondary Mathematics, and Deputy Program Convenor of the Master of Educational Studies (Mathematics). I am a member of the Priority Research Centre Computer-Assisted Research Mathematics and its Applications (CARMA), where I co-lead the Mathematics Education Group.

 

If you are a prospective PhD/Masters student and you are interested STEM Education, please email me.

 

Research Expertise

My research interests in STEM education range from determining factors contributing to school-aged awareness of STEM to quality teaching in online and blended environments in higher education. I am very interested in the effects of mathematical relevance in secondary education learning. In particular, I am currently engaged in understanding computational thinking, and how it can be used for the learning of mathematics.



Teaching Expertise

Since 2012 I teach courses on Mathematics Pedagogy (Core and Specialist Studies) and Curriculum Studies in Mathematics.

From 2000 to 2011, I taught courses on Theory of Computation, Advanced Algorithms, Computer Networks, Introduction to Software Engineering and Formal Languages and Automata both at the University of Newcastle, Australia and the University of Victoria, Canada.

Prior to 2000 I taught at high school level in Spain, El Salvador and England.



Administrative Expertise

From January to December 2011 I was the Centre Manager for the Priority Research Centre for Bioinformatics, Biomarker Discovery and Information-Based Medicine.



Collaborations

I have a long history of international research collaboration with colleagues in the area of Computer Science. In this capacity, I was invited to work with colleagues in universities in Norway, Germany, Canada and Spain.

In Education, I have collaborated with academics from many disciplines: Engineering, Education, Science, Mathematics. I believe that interactions across disciplinary boundaries will make education a richer experience at all levels.


Qualifications

  • PhD (Computer Science), University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Science (Mathematics), Complutense University of Madrid - Spain

Keywords

  • Algorithms and data structures
  • Computational thinking
  • Engineering Education
  • Formal languages and automata
  • Mathematics Education
  • Mathematics curriculum
  • Mathematics pedagogy

Languages

  • Spanish (Fluent)

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
130208 Mathematics and Numeracy Curriculum and Pedagogy 50
130306 Educational Technology and Computing 50

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Lecturer University of Newcastle
School of Education
Australia

Academic appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
1/01/2014 -  Membership - Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia
Australia
1/09/2005 - 1/05/2009 Postdoctoral Fellow University of Newcastle
School of Engineering and Built Environments
Australia
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Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.


Journal article (10 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2015 Prieto E, Holbrook A, Bourke S, 'An analysis of Ph.D. examiners¿ reports in engineering', European Journal of Engineering Education, (2015)

In recent years, there have been increasing calls for an overall transformation of the nature of engineering Ph.D. programs and the way theses are assessed. There exists a need to... [more]

In recent years, there have been increasing calls for an overall transformation of the nature of engineering Ph.D. programs and the way theses are assessed. There exists a need to understand the examination process to ensure the best quality outcome for candidates in engineering. The work we present in this paper uses data collected between 2003 and 2010 for a total of 1220 Australian Ph.D. theses by analysing examiner reports. Our analysis indicates that Ph.D. theses in engineering, N¿=¿106, differ considerably from those in other fields in areas such as gender of candidates and examiners and the examiners¿ geographical location. We also found that assessment areas such as significance and contribution of the thesis, publications arising from the thesis, breadth, depth and recency of the literature review and communication and editorial correctness are areas in which the proportion of text of engineering examiners' comments differs significantly from other fields.

DOI 10.1080/03043797.2015.1056096
2013 Edalatifard H, Prieto E, 'Accreditation of Engineering Education through Curriculum Development in Australia', International Journal of Engineering Pedagogy (iJEP), 3 5-8 (2013) [C1]
DOI 10.3991/ijep.v3iS4.3147
2010 Mellor D, Prieto-Rodriguez E, Mathieson L, Moscato PA, 'A kernelisation approach for multiple d-hitting set and its application in optimal multi-drug therapeutic combinations', Plos One, 5 1-13 (2010) [C1]
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0013055
Citations Scopus - 4Web of Science - 3
Co-authors Pablo Moscato, Luke Mathieson
2009 Holbrook AP, Panozza LA, Prieto-Rodriguez E, 'Engineering in children's fiction: Not a good story?', International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 7 723-740 (2009) [C1]
DOI 10.1007/s10763-008-9129-8
Citations Scopus - 4Web of Science - 1
Co-authors Allyson Holbrook
2009 Prieto-Rodriguez E, Holbrook AP, Bourke SF, O'Connor JD, Page AW, Husher KJ, 'Influences on engineering enrolments: A synthesis of the findings of recent reports', European Journal of Engineering Education, 34 183-203 (2009) [C1]
DOI 10.1080/03043790902835940
Citations Scopus - 11
Co-authors Sid Bourke, Allyson Holbrook, Adrian Page, John Oconnor
2006 Prieto-Rodriguez E, Sloper C, 'Looking at the stars', Theoretical Computer Science, 351 437-445 (2006) [C1]
DOI 10.1016/j.tcs.2005.10.009
Citations Scopus - 23Web of Science - 12
2005 Prieto E, 'The method of extremal structure on the k-MAXIMUM CUT problem', Conferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology Series, 41 (2005)

Using the Method of Extremal Structure, which combines the use of reduction rules as a preprocessing technique and combinatorial extremal arguments, we will prove the fixed-parame... [more]

Using the Method of Extremal Structure, which combines the use of reduction rules as a preprocessing technique and combinatorial extremal arguments, we will prove the fixed-parameter tractability and find a problem kernel for k-MAXIMUM CUT. This kernel has 2k edges, the same as that found by Mahajan and Raman in (Mahajan & Raman 1999), but using our methodology we also find a bound of k vertices leading to a running time of O(k 2 k/2 + n 2). © 2005, Australian Computer Society, Inc.

Citations Scopus - 2
2005 Prieto-Rodriguez E, 'Reducing to independent set structure: the case of k-internal spanning tree', Nordic Journal of Computing, 308-318 (2005)
2003 Downey R, Estivill-Castro V, Fellows MR, Prieto-Rodriguez E, Rosamond FA, 'Cutting up is hard to do: the parameterized Complexity of k-Cut and Related Probelms', Electronic Notes in Theoretical Computer Science, 78 205-218 (2003) [C1]
DOI 10.1016/S1571-0661(04)81014-4
Citations Scopus - 21
2003 Prieto-Rodriguez E, Sloper C, 'Either/Or: Using Vertex Cover Structure in Designing FPT-Algorithms - Case of k-Internal Spanning', Lecture Notes in Computer Notes, 2748 474-483 (2003) [C1]
Citations Scopus - 11Web of Science - 15
Show 7 more journal articles

Conference (13 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2014 Prieto-Rodriguez E, Berretta R, 'Digital Technology Teachers' Perceptions of Computer Science: It Is Not All About Programming', 2014 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference Proceedings, Madrid, Spain (2014) [E1]
DOI 10.1109/FIE.2014.7044134
Co-authors Regina Berretta
2014 Prieto-Rodriguez E, Holmes K, 'Online Students¿ Perceptions of Interactive Tools to Support Postgraduate Learning of Mathematics', Proceedings of the 37th annual conference of the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia, Sydney (2014) [E1]
Co-authors Kathryn Holmes
2012 Edalatifard H, Prieto-Rodriguez E, Mahata K, 'The impact of curriculum on engineering students' attrition', The Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Conference for the Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE), Melbourne, Vic (2012) [E3]
Co-authors Kaushik Mahata
2012 Prieto-Rodriguez E, Holbrook AP, Bourke SF, 'Australian engineering doctorates: What examiners seek and implications for the field', AARE 2012 Conference Proceedings & Program, Sydney, NSW (2012) [E3]
Co-authors Allyson Holbrook, Sid Bourke
2010 Mellor D, Prieto-Rodriguez E, Mathieson L, Moscato PA, 'Uncovering combinations: Using graph theory to find multi-drug therapies', Biomarker Discovery Conference. Poster Program, Shoal Bay, NSW (2010) [E3]
Co-authors Pablo Moscato, Luke Mathieson
2009 Bourke SF, Prieto-Rodriguez E, Holbrook AP, O'Connor JD, Page AW, Husher KJ, 'STEM: In school and after (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)', 13th Biennial Conference: EARLI 2009. Book of Abstracts, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2009) [E3]
Co-authors Adrian Page, John Oconnor, Sid Bourke, Allyson Holbrook
2009 Holbrook AP, Craig DH, Bourke SF, Lovat TJ, Holmes KA, Prieto-Rodriguez E, 'The content and language of PhD examiner reports', 13th Biennial Conference: EARLI 2009. Book of Abstracts, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2009) [E3]
Co-authors Kathryn Holmes, Allyson Holbrook, Sid Bourke, Hugh Craig, Terry Lovat
2009 Bourke SF, Holbrook AP, Craig DH, Lovat TJ, Holmes KA, Prieto-Rodriguez E, 'Matching and understanding the context and language of PhD examiner reports', 2009 AERA Annual Meeting Online Program, San Diego, CA (2009) [E3]
Co-authors Kathryn Holmes, Hugh Craig, Terry Lovat, Allyson Holbrook, Sid Bourke
2009 Prieto-Rodriguez E, Bourke SF, Holbrook AP, Page AW, O'Connor JD, Husher KJ, 'Attitudes and careers in engineering: A cross-sectional study from elementary school to the profession', 2009 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA (2009) [E3]
Co-authors Adrian Page, John Oconnor, Allyson Holbrook, Sid Bourke
2007 Bourke SF, Prieto-Rodriguez E, Holbrook AP, 'Identification of strategies to increase enrolments in engineering', EARLI 12th Biennial Conference for Research on Learning and Instruction: Developing Potentials for Learning. Abstracts, Budapest, Hungary (2007) [E3]
Co-authors Allyson Holbrook, Sid Bourke
2006 Dehne F, Fellows MR, Fernau H, Prieto-Rodriguez E, Rosamond FA, 'NONBLOCKER: Parameterized algorithmics for MINIMUM DOMINATING SET', Lecture Notes in Computer Science (SOFSEM 2006: 32nd Conference on Current Trends in Theory and Practice of Computer Science), Merin, Czech Republic (2006) [E1]
Citations Scopus - 15Web of Science - 15
2004 Prieto-Rodriguez E, Sloper C, 'Looking at the stars', Parameterized and Exact Computation, Bergen, Norway (2004) [E1]
Citations Scopus - 7Web of Science - 7
2004 Mathieson L, Prieto-Rodriguez E, Shaw PE, 'Packing edge disjoint triangles: a parameterized view', Parameterized and Exact Computation, Bergen, Norway (2004) [E1]
Citations Scopus - 15Web of Science - 20
Co-authors Luke Mathieson
Show 10 more conferences

Report (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2011 Prieto-Rodriguez E, Bourke SF, Holbrook AP, O'Connor JD, Page AW, Husher KJ, 'Identification and Development of Strategies for Increasing Engineering Enrolments', ARC, 150 (2011) [R1]
Co-authors Sid Bourke, Allyson Holbrook, Adrian Page, John Oconnor
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants 11
Total funding $644,453

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.


20152 grants / $202,018

Building STEM students’ numeracy for success in higher education$187,186

STEM university students traditionally find mathematics to be a roadblock to success in their degrees, and data worldwide suggests that this is much more prevalent amongst students from low SES backgrounds. With this project we intend to create, evaluate and disseminate a set of digital media resources designed for low SES students. These resources are centred on mathematical concepts known to be roadblocks for STEM students. The project will draw on the experiences and expertise of teaching academics in Engineering, Education, Mathematics and Science, who recognise the challenges faced by students from low SES backgrounds and the possibilities for improving their experiences at tertiary level.

Funding body: Department of Education

Funding body Department of Education
Project Team
Scheme HEPP National Priorities Pool
Role Lead
Funding Start 2015
Funding Finish 2015
GNo
Type Of Funding Aust Competitive - Commonwealth
Category 1CS
UON Y

CS4HS workshop$14,832

Funding body: Google Australia Pty Ltd

Funding body Google Australia Pty Ltd
Project Team Doctor Elena Prieto-Rodriguez, Associate Professor Regina Berretta, Mr Andrew Lyell
Scheme Donation
Role Lead
Funding Start 2015
Funding Finish 2015
GNo G1500616
Type Of Funding Donation - Aust Non Government
Category 3AFD
UON Y

20143 grants / $394,021

Inspiring Mathematics and Science in Teacher Education$297,871

Funding body: Office for Learning and Teaching

Funding body Office for Learning and Teaching
Project Team Doctor Judy-Anne Osborn, Doctor Kathryn Holmes, Doctor Elena Prieto-Rodriguez, Doctor Peter Howley, Doctor Andrew Kepert, Doctor Malcolm Roberts
Scheme Commissioned Strategic Projects
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2014
Funding Finish 2014
GNo G1301449
Type Of Funding Aust Competitive - Commonwealth
Category 1CS
UON Y

Research Training and Transformational Knowledge $90,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team Professor Allyson Holbrook, Doctor Kylie Shaw, Emeritus Professor Sid Bourke, Doctor Kathryn Grushka, Doctor Jill Scevak, Doctor Robert Cantwell, Doctor Elena Prieto-Rodriguez
Scheme Research Programme 2014
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2014
Funding Finish 2014
GNo G1400924
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

Improving teaching practice and student outcomes using action research with critical partners$6,150

Funding body: Wadalba Community School

Funding body Wadalba Community School
Project Team Doctor Kathryn Holmes, Doctor Elena Prieto-Rodriguez
Scheme Research Grant
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2014
Funding Finish 2014
GNo G1400628
Type Of Funding Other Public Sector - State
Category 2OPS
UON Y

20132 grants / $19,694

Educating, informing and preparing high school teachers to engage and inspire the next generation of computer scientists$14,930

This project consists on implementing and supporting a series of three workshops whose objective is to educate, inform and prepare high school teachers in the Hunter region to engage and inspire their students in the wonders of Computer Science and its applications.

Funding body: Google Australia Pty Ltd

Funding body Google Australia Pty Ltd
Project Team
Scheme CS4HS
Role Lead
Funding Start 2013
Funding Finish 2013
GNo
Type Of Funding Donation - Aust Non Government
Category 3AFD
UON Y

Teaching mathematics for social justice using project-based learning: An exploration of teachers’ professional development $4,764

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Elena Prieto-Rodriguez
Scheme New Staff Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2013
Funding Finish 2013
GNo G1300870
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

20121 grants / $8,720

Which factors contribute to increase the number of secondary students in high level mathematics? A study about relevance and technology use$8,720

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Elena Prieto-Rodriguez
Scheme Early Career Researcher Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2012
Funding Finish 2012
GNo G1200810
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

20082 grants / $10,000

Utilising linguistic analysis to explore text patterning in PhD examination reports$5,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Professor Allyson Holbrook, Professor Hugh Craig, Emeritus Professor Sid Bourke, Emeritus Professor Terry Lovat, Doctor Kathryn Holmes, Doctor Elena Prieto-Rodriguez
Scheme Pilot Grant
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2008
Funding Finish 2008
GNo G0189098
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

Utilising linguistic analysis to explore text patterning in PhD examination reports$5,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team Professor Allyson Holbrook, Professor Hugh Craig, Emeritus Professor Sid Bourke, Emeritus Professor Terry Lovat, Doctor Kathryn Holmes, Doctor Elena Prieto-Rodriguez
Scheme Pilot Project Grant
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2008
Funding Finish 2008
GNo G0189382
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

1 grants / $10,000

CS4HS workshop$10,000

Funding body: Google Australia Pty Ltd

Funding body Google Australia Pty Ltd
Project Team Doctor Elena Prieto-Rodriguez, Associate Professor Regina Berretta
Scheme Donation
Role Lead
Funding Start
Funding Finish
GNo G1400548
Type Of Funding Donation - Aust Non Government
Category 3AFD
UON Y
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Research Supervision

Current Supervision

Commenced Research Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2015 Comparative Spatial Modelling of the AQF and EQF in Epistemological Domains
Curriculum & Education Studies, Faculty of Education and Arts
Co-Supervisor
2015 Is STEM for Me? How Does Outreach Influence Perception and Engagement? Is This the Same For All Demographic Groups?
Physics, Faculty of Science and Information Technology
Co-Supervisor
2013 Curriculum Development in Engineering Education: A Case Study of Change Agents in the Telecommunication Specialty
Computer Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment
Co-Supervisor
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News

Teaching Mathematics for Social Justice

PhD Opportunity in Teaching Mathematics for Social Justice

April 2, 2015

A PhD or research masters opportunity is available to investigate Teaching Mathematics for Social Justice under the supervision of Dr Elena Prieto-Rodriguez.

Teachers and Teaching Research Program

Teachers and teaching

May 15, 2014

University of Newcastle research program, Teachers and Teaching, proves collaboration is the key to success in teaching and research.

Dr Elena Prieto-Rodriguez

Position

Lecturer
School of Education
School of Education
Faculty of Education and Arts

Focus area

Mathematics

Contact Details

Email elena.prieto@newcastle.edu.au
Phone +61 (0)2 4921 7916
Fax +61 (0)2 49 217887

Office

Room HA95
Building Hunter Building
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308
Australia
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