For Students, Faculty, and Staff: MyU One Stop


Susan Staats

Associate Professor
Ph.D. (2003), M.A. Cultural Anthropology, Indiana University.
M.S., B.S. Mathematics, Ohio State University

Curriculum and Instruction .
Room 372 PeikH

159 Pillsbury Dr SE
Tel: 612/625-7820

Office hours:
Monday and Wednesday, 1 - 2, and by appointment. Email is the best way to contact me.

Download Curriculum Vitae [PDF]

Areas of Interest

Mathematics Education, Ethnography of Speaking, Linguistics, Anthropology.

What motivates me in my work?

I’m motivated by the awareness that everyone can do mathematics. It takes time and hard work, but you can learn mathematics deeply.  In their lives, everyone has faced and overcome challenges more complicated than the algebraic expressions you’ll find in my class!

I have degrees in both cultural anthropology and in mathematics, but I chose to teach mathematics. Sometimes students step aside from their career dreams because they feel they must avoid a few mathematics classes.  I want these students in my class. If you dedicate your time and your thought to the mathematics, I’ll help you move towards your favorite vision of your future.

What can students expect from me?

Past students say that I’m almost always in a good mood. You can expect my class to be upbeat, supportive and talkative. I may not tell you how to do a math problem, but I’ll guide you so that you can figure it out along with your classmates.  You’ll understand and remember it better that way.  My class usually offers students the opportunity to create and answer mathematics questions that are grounded in their personal interests. You can see some samples of student work here.

My research.

My research addresses mathematical contexts for learning in two ways: (1) interdisciplinary contexts for algebra and (2) the linguistics of collaborative problem solving. Theoretically, my research is rooted in the anthropological field known as the ethnography of speaking, which takes verbal communication as the primary perspective on social life. The field focuses on artful, expressive performances carried out by purposeful social actors. Its major method is to account for the social meanings of speech through the analysis of linguistic form. If language affects people, their relationships, their beliefs and knowledge, then it must do so through formal features that we can hear and describe. In my publications, I have tried to identify perspectives and methods within the ethnography of speaking that offer conceptual and analytical precision to mathematics education research, specifically with regard to the ways in which teachers and students both create contexts for learning.

Selected Publications

  1. Staats, S. (in press for July 2014). The interdisciplinary future of mathematics curriculum. For the Learning of Mathematics 34(2).

  2. Staats, S. & Robertson, D. (2014). Designing tasks for math modeling in college algebra: A critical review. Journal of College Teaching and Learning 11(2), 85-94.

  3. Staats, S. & Johnson, J. (2013) Designing interdisciplinary curriculum for college algebra. In Task design in mathematics education: Proceedings of ICMI study 22.  International Commission on Mathematical Instruction Working Group Study 22: Task Design, C. Margolinas, (Ed.), (pp. 391-402).

  4. Staats, S., Sintjago, A., & Fitzpatrick, R. (2013). Kiva Microloans in a Learning Community: An Assignment for Interdisciplinary Synthesis. Innovative Higher Education 38(3), 173-187.

  5. Staats, S. & Batten, C. (2009). Stretching, Sliding and Strategy: Indexicality in Algebraic Explanations. Research in Mathematics Education 11(1), 57-71.

  6. Staats, S. & Robertson, D. (2009). International inequalities: Algebraic investigations into health and economic development. MathAMATYC Educator 1(1), 6 - 11

  7. Staats, S. (2009). A comment on “Mathematics, style, audience, and criticism” by D. Pimm and N. Sinclair. (Invited commentary). For the Learning of Mathematics 29(2), 29.

  8. Staats, S. and Batteen, C. (2009). Stretching, sliding and strategy: Indexicality in algebraic explanations. Research in Mathematics Education 11(1), 57-71.

  9. Staats, S. (2008). Poetic lines in mathematics discourse: A method from linguistic anthropology. For the Learning of Mathematics 28(2), 26-32.

  10. Staats, S. (2007). Dynamic contexts and imagined worlds: An interdisciplinary approach to mathematics applications. For the Learning of Mathematics 27(1), 4-9.

  11. Staats, S. (2006). The case for rich contexts in ethnomathematics lessons. Journal of Mathematics and Culture 1(1), 39-56.