Plenary Speaker Profile (2019)
Cindy Kaus
Professor of Mathematics
Metropolitan State University
Removing barriers to degree completion by connecting math to civic issues

Mathematics students from diverse backgrounds have the power to serve as invaluable resources for their classmates, teachers and the community. They bring a broad range of experiences and perspectives that enrich the learning environment. How do we transform the classroom to support and encourage students from all backgrounds to adopt the identity of a mathematical thinker? What structural barriers are in place that we must move beyond? How do we change our students’ mathematical stories so that they learn to appreciate the beauty and applications of mathematics and also have confidence in their mathematical ability?

In a 2016 study of students who “stopped out” of Metropolitan State University with more than 110 credits towards their major, it was found that 35 of those students were lacking only one requirement – their general education requirement in mathematics. In addition, students with disabilities were often receiving waivers for their general education requirement in mathematics and obtaining degrees having never completed a math course. In response, math courses were developed at Metropolitan State University to civically engage students by connecting mathematical topics to issues of critical local, national, and global importance. Student success has not only been measured by successful completion of these courses but also by graduation rates and success in graduate programs.

Cindy Kaus is a professor of mathematics at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, MN, where she has taught for 17 years. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering at Arizona State University and her Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Arizona. In 2017, Cindy was awarded the MAA NCS Distinguished University Teaching of Mathematics award. As Co-PI on the NSF grant, Engaging Mathematics, Cindy led the project in developing civically engaged mathematics curriculum and creating a community of practice among four and two-year faculty. Her work on this project led to a chapter in the Mathematical Association of America’s Doing the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Mathematics. Cindy was a 2014 Fulbright Scholar at the University of Seychelles Africa where she taught mathematics and assisted in the development of a mathematics education program. She has a long-standing commitment to increasing the representation of women and persons of color in the STEM fields, and removing barriers and increasing engagement in the learning and teaching of mathematics.