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Karen Hollebrands

Associate Dean for Research and Innovation


Associate Dean for Research and Innovation

Professor, Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor, University Faculty Scholar (2015-2020)

STEM Education


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Dr. Karen Hollebrands is the Associate Dean for Research and Innovation in the College of Education. She joined NC State in 2001 as an assistant professor of mathematics education and became a full professor in 2014. She was inducted into the Academy of Outstanding Teachers at NC State in 2009, was named an Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor in 2014 and a University Faculty Scholar in 2015. She has served in various leadership roles for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (AMTE), and the North America Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education. She served as the Editor of the Mathematics Teacher Educator journal co-published by AMTE and NCTM from 2018-2022.

Dr. Hollebrands’ research examines the mathematical understandings students and teachers develop when using technology. Since 2001, she has partnered with faculty in the college and researchers at the Friday Institute to secure more than $10 million dollars to support her work on several different research projects including the Preparing to Teach Mathematics with Technology project, MOOCs for Educators, and four Noyce scholar programs. The technology-based curricula materials she has co-designed and studied have been implemented nationally and internationally. Most recently, as Associate Dean for Research, she supported faculty and researchers in the college to achieve an all-time record of receiving more the $42 million dollars during fiscal year 2023.


Courses Taught

  • EMS 204 Introduction to Mathematics Education
  • EMS 470 Methods and Materials for Teaching Mathematics
  • EMS 471 Student Teaching
  • EMS 480/580 Teaching Mathematics with Technology
  • EMS 510 Interactions in the Mathematics Classroom
  • EMS 514 Geometric Thinking and Learning
  • EMS 581 Advanced Applications of Technology in Mathematics
  • EMS 711 Teaching and Learning of Mathematics in Secondary and Collegiate Mathematics
  • EMS 770 Foundations of Mathematics Education


Ph.D Curriculum & Instruction The Pennsylvania State University 2001

M.Ed. Mathematics Education North Carolina State University 1995

B.S. Secondary Education - Mathematics SUNY-Oswego 1989


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Date: 08/01/23 - 7/31/25
Amount: $673,241.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

This ECR conference, Conversations Across Boundaries, under the Research on STEM Learning and Learning Environments research area in Mathematics, brings together experts from mathematics teacher education, cognitive science, and special education to work on a common goal via constructive conversations organized over two face-to-face days with follow-up virtual meetings. The proposed conference is designed to generate a set of principles and a collaborative research agenda among the fields, focused on existing agreement regarding PK-2 mathematics and uncovering areas of disagreement where further exchange and generation of knowledge is needed. The design uses Wenger’s community of practice concept as the organizing frame. From this perspective, the event can be defined as a boundary encounter in which boundary brokers from mathematics teacher education, special education, and cognitive science engage in dialogue to improve understanding regarding PK-2 mathematics. The resulting synthesized set of principles, which we call a living synthesis, is conceived as a combination of current knowledge and ideas brought forward, generated, and agreed upon in a shared space to form a consensus and cohesive view of PK-2 mathematics learning and teaching, that is also understood to be open to expansion or change. Additional outcomes for the conference include: three briefs, one of each targeting researchers, teachers, and policymakers; an extension of the event to other notable conference spaces through working groups; and manuscript submissions to both researcher-oriented and practitioner-oriented journals. Together, the conference and its products hold strong potential to make important contributions to general, explanatory knowledge (e.g., synthesized understandings) pertaining to STEM learning and learning environments that are carried forward, with impacts sustaining long after the event.

Date: 05/01/19 - 4/30/24
Amount: $1,844,149.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

The purpose of the Track 3 Noyce Master Teaching Fellows program at NC State is to support and retain master teachers in mathematics by partnering with four high-need LEAs (Cabarrus County Schools, Mount Airy City Schools, Rockingham County Schools, and Wayne County Schools), and the non-profit agency, The Innovation Project (TIP) and NC State. This project dovetails with our collaborations with TIP to place highly qualified beginning STEM teachers from NC State in high-needs districts in the state of North Carolina. The project also builds on our experiences from two prior Noyce scholarship programs, to prepare students to become mathematics teachers, and a state NC Quest grant to support practicing high school mathematics teachers to implement new state standards for mathematics. Teacher shortages have been growing in North Carolina and across the country, especially in STEM fields and in high-needs school districts (Cowan, Goldhaber, Hayes, & Theobald, 2016; Podolsky, Kini, Bishop, and Darling-Hammond, 2016; Sutcher, Darling-Hammond & Carver-Thomas, 2016) Podolsky, Kini, Bishop, and Darling-Hammond (2016) identify two factors contributing to these shortages: the number of students choosing to pursue a career in teaching and the number of teachers leaving the profession. Sutcher, Darling-Hammond and Carver-Thomas, make three recommendations to address the teacher shortage: offer competitive salary packages, enhance the supply of new teachers, and improve teacher retention, especially in high-needs schools, through induction programs, mentoring, improved working conditions and professional development. While some efforts are currently underway in the state of North Carolina to encourage more students to become STEM teachers, little has been done to address issues related to teacher attrition.

Date: 07/01/17 - 12/31/20
Amount: $314,816.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

This Engaged Student Learning Exploration and Design project seeks to capitalize on the power of Web Sketchpad technology-enabled curriculum units to deepen pre-service teachers’ knowledge of mathematics topics and rich connections among them. This project aims to create and test five web-based mathematics units for pre-service teachers that promote this highly geometric approach, cultivating in teachers a robust conception of the secondary mathematics courses they will teach. The five curriculum units we will develop and implement will build on foundations of cognitive science, technology, and pedagogy to achieve the following goals: • strengthen the mathematical background of future mathematics teachers, using a geometric approach to functions as an overarching framework for technology-rich investigations of geometric transformations, analytic geometry, trigonometry, complex numbers, and relative rates of change with connections to calculus. • lead with geometry rather than algebra, grounding teachers’ understanding in a visual, sensorimotor, and dynamic approach to mathematics throughout the units; • capitalize on the ability of Web Sketchpad, a new web-based software funded in part by our prior DRK–12 NSF grant, to design one-of-a-kind mathematical tools tailored to the needs of each particular lesson. • focus on student thinking and pedagogy through discussions of student interview videos and modeling the pedagogy that teachers will bring to their classrooms; • construct measures aligned with each unit to assess what preservice teachers learn; • solicit and utilize feedback from experts to make modification to the units and measures; • design teacher support materials for implementation; • pilot test each unit and make revisions based on data collection

Date: 08/01/17 - 7/31/20
Amount: $74,964.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

If funded, we commit to providing data and task artifacts as outlined below. 1. We will provide you with information on our Noyce preparation program, including: • Course requirements for each content area of preparation area • Field experience requirements • Components of our induction program 2. We will provide you with data on at least two cohorts of Noyce graduates over the first years of their teaching careers, including: • Noyce teacher demographic characteristics • Gender • Age • Major / STEM field of study • Teaching field • Grade level of teaching • Salary • Employment / teaching status (full time, part time, long term sub) • Class sizes • School demographic characteristics where Noyce graduates are employed • Size • Grades served (e.g., 6–8) • School level prior achievement • Racial composition • Eligibility for F/RPL • Per pupil expenditures • Teacher-student ratio • Teacher turnover rate 3. From Noyce graduates, we will collect and submit to you the following: • Four tasks each Noyce graduate has assigned to their students and six student work samples for each task. We understand that once we provide these tasks and samples, each Noyce teacher will be asked to complete a cover sheet for each assignment, identifying the task students were asked to solve, directions given, and their expectations for students’ work on this task.

Date: 09/01/12 - 8/31/19
Amount: $799,844.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

The Noyce Mathematics Education Teaching Scholars II [Noyce METS II] is a Phase II Scholarships and Stipends proposal that will continue to support and monitor 24 Noyce scholars funded from the METS I project and provide scholarships and stipends to 14 new scholars. Noyce scholars at NC State have strong content preparation in mathematical sciences and are required to take a sequence of specialized courses in mathematics education to develop knowledge specific to teach mathematics. These scholars will be prepared to be leaders in technological innovation to improve student understanding in mathematics, and will be committed to work with students in high-needs school districts.

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