Nicole Fonger

Nicole Fonger
Assistant Professor
Curriculum Vitae: Nicole Fonger CV
Phone: 315.443.1581
Address: 103D Carnegie Hall


  •  Ph.D., Mathematics Education, Western Michigan University, 2012
  • Dissertation: "Characterizing and Supporting Change in Algebra Students' Representational Fluency in a CAS/Paper-and-Pencil Environment"
  • M.A., Mathematics, Western Michigan University, December 2009
  • M.A., Mathematics Education, Western Michigan University, April 2008
  • B.A., Mathematics, University of Saint Thomas, May 2006

Research & Scholarship

Research Focus:

Across all of my research I seek to better understand both students' meaningful learning of mathematics, and the nature of supports for that learning

Dr. Fonger researches how students learn mathematics, with a focus on students’ learning of algebra and algebraic thinking across K-12 schooling. In future work, Nicole plans to extend her focus on student cognition, curriculum, and instructional supports to include affective dimensions of learning and well-being. Dr. Fonger has published her work on learning trajectories and learning progressions, which model students’ learning of mathematics over time in relation to curricular and instructional supports for learning. Nicole has also published research reports on her characterizations of students’ representational fluency, a construct to model students’ use of symbols, tables, and graphs in doing and communicating about mathematics with multiple representations. Some of this work is published in proceedings for the North American Chapter of International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (PME-NA). Finally, Professor Fonger publishes research findings that focus on linking research and practice, to bridge the work of mathematics educators in higher education and in school settings, with a focus on secondary math teachers.

Top-level research questions:

  • How can students’ meaningful learning of mathematics (algebra) be characterized?
  • How can students’ meaningful learning of mathematics (algebra) be supported?
  • How can research-practice links be strengthened?

Current strands of my research and practice work in mathematics education include:

  • learning trajectories to model students’ conceptual understanding of function
  • characterizing and supporting students’ representational fluency
  • a learning progressions approach in mathematics education research and practice
  • bolstering links between research and practice through communication, collaboration, and community
  • exploring the intersection of mindfulness and mathematics to support social, emotional, and cognitive well-being
  • humanizing mathematics through a heart-centered pedagogy, reality pedagogy, and social justice

Please contact me directly if you are interested in collaborating with me. I would love to hear from undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff and postdocs, teachers, teacher leaders, and community members. Additional information about these projects is available below, and on my website under Research.

Project: Reality Math Circle Partnership with Syracuse City School District
This project has three Foci:

  1. How do students experience meaningful learning of mathematics? How do youth narrate their experiences through photovoice (students take photo and write text of experience—What is algebra? Who is algebra for? What environments support your learning of algebra?).
  2. How do the components of reality pedagogy (vis-a-vis @chrisemdin #HipHopEd) play out in an after-school enrichment opportunity?
  3. How might a research-practice partnership support mathematics educators’ understandings of broader tensions of meaningful learning of mathematics in a high-stakes testing culture?

Project: Learning Trajectories and Learning Progressions in Algebra and Algebraic Thinking
Focus: A learning trajectory integrates conceptual learning goals, mathematical instructional supports and tasks, and characterizations of students’ conceptions vis-a-vis their discursive activity. How does students’ conceptual understanding grow in relation to instructional supports? What is unique about a learning trajectory approach in modeling learning and supports for learning?

Project: Heart-Centered Pedagogy and Mindfulness
Focus: How are cognition, emotion, social relations, and sensation experienced in math learning? How do these dimensions of experience amplify meaningful math learning — especially at the intersection of mathematics and mindfulness? What does it mean to teach mathematics with kindness in mind? How might teaching growth mindset support algebra students' development of productive disposition toward mathematics?

Project: Linking Research and Practice
Focus: How are community, collaboration, and communication central to linking research and practice in mathematics education? What are productive images and metaphors for linking research and practice (that help us move beyond a deficiency or ‘gap’ focused storyline). My goal is to create additional video-based content of research to support broader and clearer dissemination of research.

Project: Representational Fluency and Meaning-Making
Focus: Representational fluency involves creating, interpreting, and connecting multiple representations in doing and communicating about mathematics. I believe engaging in these processes is one way to support to meaning-making about mathematical ideas.

Grad Student Mentorship Opportunities 

  • Lead Management of Reality Math Circle Project.
  • Co-author papers for conferences and journals.
  • Lead of co-create expereinces and artifacts to strengthen research-practice links (e.g. video, sketch, write, teacher PD).



 Professional Memberships

  • National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
  • North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (PME-NA)
  • International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (IGPME)
  • European Research in Mathematics Education (ERME)

Select Service Commitments

  • Grant Panel reviewer for the National Science Foundation
  • Manuscript reviewer for Journal for Research in Mathematics Education
  • Manuscript reviewer for Mathematics Teacher
  • Manuscript reviewer for North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education

Courses Taught

  • Pre-calculus (MAT 194)
  • Methods and Curriculum in Teaching Mathematics (SED 413/613)
  • Linking Research and Practice in (Mathematics) Education (EDU 700/ MTD 700)
  • Internship in Mathematics Education (MTD 630)
  • Candidacy Student Teaching (EDU 508)
  • Research Seminar in Mathematics Education (MTD 830)
  • Undergraduate Research in Mathematics Education (MTD 330)
  • First Year Forum (CAS 101) 


Recent Publications

View all faculty research and publications