College of Education and Human Development

Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Susan Staats

  • Pronouns: she, her, hers

  • Professor

  • Office Hours

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Susan Staats

Areas of interest

Mathematics education, linguistic anthropology of education, interdisciplinary curriculum, educational justice through concurrent enrollment partnerships


PhD, (2003) Cultural Anthropology, Indiana University.
MS, BS Mathematics, Ohio State University


As a cultural anthropologist with research and teaching responsibilities in mathematics, my academic pathway is varied and unusual. I apply this interdisciplinary background to widen the boundaries of mathematics education research, teaching, and public engagement in frequently entwined ways. All my research, all my teaching and my most impactful service seeks to understand and improve equitable educational access for early undergraduates and for students in transition to universities. My academic appointment values practitioner and publicly-engaged scholarship in addition to traditional contributions to scholarly theory.

My primary research contribution is the development of a new technique of mathematical discourse analysis based on dialogic poetic structures, patterns of repetition in syntax, words, or in the prosodic, musical dimensions of speech, across speakers or within a single speaking turn. My research provides methodological support and theoretical explanation for equity mathematics pedagogies centered on dialogic learning, to answer the question: how is it possible that conversation about mathematics can help students learn it? Poetic structures are part of the answer, because through dialogical repetition with small adjustments, students can build remarkably precise mathematical conjectures using informal language, apparently in any language (Staats, 2008, 2017, 2018, 2021). This work was recognized by the British Society for Research into Learning Mathematics with the 2018 Janet Duffin Award.

My second research strand is grounded in my public engagement that allows marginalized secondary students to complete a challenging university mathematical modeling course each year through a concurrent enrollment program known as College in the Schools (CIS). This research shares my professional model for equity-based concurrent enrollment mathematics (e.g., Staats & Laster, 2018; Staats & Robertson, 2014). Several other publications share the model for writing- and inquiry-based mathematical modeling pedagogy that I developed through my work with CIS teachers such as Baldinger, Staats, et al (2020) and Anhalt, Staats, et al (2018).

My third research interest is in analyzing students’ responses to social justice and interdisciplinary mathematics curriculum, which arises in part from applying anthropological perspectives in my teaching assignments (e.g., Staats, 2007, 2015; Staats, Ernst, et al., 2015). Recent effort includes a co-authored mathematics lesson plan on gender diversity (Whipple, Staats, & Harrision, 2020).

Doctoral Advising

I welcome advisees and co-advising relationships in my areas of interest, especially in mathematics collaborative discourse, math modeling and interdisciplinary pedagogies, and poetic inquiry in mathematics teaching and learning. I have contributed discourse method expertise to many students outside of mathematics education, and I welcome these cross-disciplinary co-advising relationships. My research emphasizes mathematics of upper secondary and early undergraduate classrooms, but I can contribute to dissertations at any level within my areas of interest. As a cultural anthropologist, I have broad interests in mathematics education, and I value many kinds of research, but I expect students to envision how their research vision grows from or contributes to a more equitable world. Early stage doctoral students don’t need to have a complete picture of their research but should bring an independent passion to their work–one that I can guide and nurture.


At the University of Minnesota, my teaching spans first-year undergraduate liberal education courses in mathematics and in interdisciplinary writing; Master’s level action research methods in educational settings; and doctoral level courses in critical discourse and classroom discourse research methods. All of my courses incorporate multidisciplinary and social justice perspectives. My teaching has been recognized through the Morse-Alumni Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education with induction into the University’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers (2013) and with the CEHD Distinguished Teaching Award (2019).


My most impactful service is to educationally-underserved Minnesota secondary students through coordinating the concurrent enrollment offerings of CI 1806: College Algebra through Modeling. From 2009 to the present, over 4,000 students, mostly members of racially, economically or linguistically-minoritized groups, have completed this challenging yet accessible writing- and inquiry- based college algebra course. I have served as Director of Graduate Studies and Director of Undergraduate Studies. I work on the Senate Judicial Committee, the Council on Liberal Education, the College in the Schools Advisory board, and I serve as an Associate Editor for the journal For the Learning of Mathematics.


  • CEHD Distinguished Teaching Award, University of Minnesota, 2019
  • Janet Duffin Award, British Society for Research into Learning Mathematics, 2018
  • Excellence in Research Award, Journal of College Teaching and Learning, 2016
  • Morse-Alumni Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education, University of Minnesota, 2013
  • Article of the Year Award, Journal of College Reading and Learning, 2009


  • International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education 
  • North American Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education 
  • Mathematics Education and Society 
  • North American Study Group for Ethnomathematics

Staats, S. (2023). Same thing: Mind blown: Stylization of “pleasantly frustrating” analogies. Proceedings of a symposium on speaking mathematically in honour of David Pimm. Festschrift monograph in honor of David Pimm, pp. 50-56.

Staats, S. (2021). Mathematical poetic structures: The sound shape of collaboration. Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 62 (online first publication).

Whipple, K, Staats, S., & Harrison, K.C. (2020). Mathematical modeling activity: The spread of gender inclusive pronouns. In Wooley, S. & Airton, L., (Eds). How to teach about gender diversity: Teacher-tested lesson plans for K-12 classrooms (pp. 271-276). Canadian Scholars Press.

Baldinger, E,. Staats, S. Clarkson, L. Gullickson, E., Norman, F., & Akoto, B. (2020). Returning voice to the silent M: A review of conceptualizations of mathematics in integrated STEM curriculum. In Anderson, J., & Li, Yeping, (Eds.). Integrated approaches to STEM curriculum: An international perspective (pp. 67-90). Cham: Springer.

Staats, S. & Laster, L. A. (2019). About time. For the Learning of Mathematics, 39(1), 43-46.

Staats, S. (2018). Coloring conjectures with sound, silence, syntax and gesture: A multimodal poetic analysis. For the Learning of Mathematics, 38(2), 2-8.

Anhalt, C.O., Staats, S., Cortez, R. & Civil, M. (2018). Mathematical modeling and culturally responsive teaching. IN Y. J. Dori, Z. Mevareach, & D. Baker (Eds.). Cognition, Metacognition, and Culture in STEM Education (pp. 307-330). Cham, Switzerland: Springer International.

Staats, S., & Laster, L. (2018). Extending universal design for learning through concurrent enrollment: Algebra teachers’ perspectives. Education Sciences, 8(4). doi:10.3390/educsci8040154

Staats, S. (2017). Poetics of argumentation: The relevance of conversational repetition for two theories of emergent mathematical reasoning. Research in Mathematics Education, 19(3), 276-292.

Staats, S. (2015). Internationalizing college algebra. In R. Williams & A. Lee, (Eds.). Internationalizing higher education: Critical collaborations across the curriculum (pp. 151 - 170). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense.

Staats, S., Ernst, D., Berken, S. & Robertson, D. (2015). Investigating the mathematics of inaccessible objects: Algebra videos with iPads. In M. Meletiou-Mavrotheris, K. Mavrou & E. Paparistodemou (Eds). Integrating touch-enabled and mobile devices into contemporary mathematics education (pp. 97 – 121). Hershey, Pennsylvania: IGI Global.

Staats, S. (2014). The interdisciplinary future of mathematics curriculum. For the Learning of Mathematics 34(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.

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).

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.

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

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

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

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