Dr. Christine “Christin” Herrera is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education in the Department Mathematics and Statistics at California State University, Chico. She earned a B.S. and M.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University and a Ph.D. in Mathematics Education from Texas State University under the guidance of Dr. M. Alejandra Sorto.
Born in Denver, Colorado, Christin loved learning. In high school she discovered her calling for higher education and dreamed of becoming the first in her family to attend college. However, the journey to achieving her ambitions was not an easy one. During high school, Christin faced the obstacles of her difficult home life, and she became her own breadwinner, guide, and advocate at a young age.
School became a safe haven for Christin, and she felt a freedom within the walls of her mathematics classroom. Christin found herself drawn to the beauty, creativity, and power she felt when excelling at a subject she was often told was beyond her reach as a young Latina. Her drive and discipline earned her the Gates Millennium Scholarship in 2005. This award provided her with a lifeline, an opportunity that Christin would not squander.
In college, Christin faced many obstacles that traditional college students do not. She entered higher education without the privilege of parental support and guidance. Though she loved mathematics, she feared the lack of financially stability. Instead, she declared a major that she believed would offer her security after graduation-orthodontics. Luckily, Christin met with an academic advisor, who asked her, “What do you love to learn or do?” The answer came to Christin fast and clear: math! Not only did Christin want to live the life of a mathematician, she wanted to help others facing struggles achieve their own academic dreams and focused her ambitions on mathematics education.
As a mathematics education researcher, both Christin’s research and teaching are infused with her passion to create learning environments that empower students. Christin’s research focuses on areas of teaching and learning that foster productive struggle and teacher noticing for equity. Christin—in collaboration with doctors Hiroko Warshauer, Christina Starkey, and Shawnda Smith—researches how video analysis in prospective teacher content courses develop prospective teachers’ understanding of how productive struggle provides access and empowerment for students. In addition, engaging in productive struggle allows students to view mathematics as sense making that involves persistence and struggle. The incorporation of video analysis provides prospective teachers the opportunity to learn about the best teaching practices that draw upon and leverage mathematical thinking, cultural, community, family, linguistic, interests, and classroom peers to support and empower students engaging in productive struggle. Introducing prospective teachers to the methods of productive struggle early on in the teacher continuum, specifically in their content courses, bridges the stance between being a student and becoming a teacher by having them apply their specialized content knowledge to attend to and interpret the mathematics and students’ mathematical thinking in productive struggle.
To improve her own teaching practices in calculus courses, Christin’s dissertation focused on the relationships among undergraduates’ mathematical thinking about core concepts in calculus with proof comprehension in an analysis course. Christin identified themes among students’ mathematical language, concepts images, and example spaces who struggled with comprehending limit proofs. Using her research, Christin has designed her calculus courses to engage students in productive struggle early on, in hopes of developing a conceptual understanding that cultivates their proof comprehension.
As an educator who teaches “bottle-neck” mathematics courses and mathematics content courses for future teachers, Christin recognizes that higher education is traditionally organized in ways that embody existing systems of power and privilege. As such, Christin is passionate about finding ways to democratize educational institutions to traditionally excluded student populations. In her classroom, she focuses on creating an active learning environment aimed to change traditional dynamics and cultivate students’ mathematical thinking, cultural, and linguistic funds of knowledge to make mathematics more accessible for students. As a teacher, Christin views her role as not only a person who guides, develops, and expands the students’ knowledge, but as a facilitator of students’ budding relationship with mathematics. She recognizes, that like in any healthy relationship, communication is key. She orchestrates discourse by posing probing questions to elicit, engage, and challenge students’ thinking, listening to their ideas, and allowing others to contribute in the class conversation. Like many instructors, Christin frames her classes around the hope that students walk away with a deeper knowledge of mathematics. However, she also strives to facilitate something greater for her students; she hopes that her classes afford them the opportunity to see their contributions as integral to their peers’ learning and that they perceive themselves as valued members of the mathematical community.
Christin’s passion is to support Latinx students and other historically underrepresented groups in learning and teaching mathematics. She believes that such opportunities should be made available to Latinx students at all levels, especially those pursuing careers in STEM. For the past three years, Christin has partnered with Chico State’s Center for Bilingual/Multicultural Studies in the School of Education on a five-year grant from the United States Department of Education Office of English Language Acquisition. As the mathematics educator on the Community and Instruction for expanding English Learners’ Opportunities in rural California schools (CIELO) Project, Christin works with pre-service, in-service, and paraprofessional educators to develop culturally responsive STEAM lessons and service-learning projects for Dual Immersion and English Language Development settings.
During the summers, Christin also shares her expertise by co-facilitating STEM workshops for aspiring bilingual educators during the California Mini-Corps Program’s Summer Institute with Dr. Carolina Alvarado, a Physics Educator. CA Mini-Corps, through the auspices of Butte County Schools, is a corps of college students with rural migrant backgrounds, who serve as teacher assistants in migrant impacted schools. The duo has facilitated the two workshops: “STEM: Aligning Proportional Reasoning with NGSS” (2018) and “Kinematics: Exploring the Art Behind Graphs and Movement” (2019).
Additionally, Christin is the faculty mentor, curriculum advisor and instructor for the Chico State’s Louis Stoke Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program. In collaboration with Dr. Lorena Navarro, Christin leads the Summer Calculus Boot Camp, a 4-week residential program for freshmen and continuing students designed to improve their problem-solving abilities necessary to succeed as a STEM major. The program helps students acclimate to university life and helps them build a strong community of STEM majors, staff, and faculty.
“Our history, our culture, our knowledge and hard-work cannot be summed up in a month-long celebration. The Hispanic Heritage Month is thus, an opportunity for non-Latinx communities to join us in recognizing and honoring our contributions and accomplishments that we celebrate day in and day out. I hope that the visibility and uplifting of our people will continue and that one-day others will join us in our year-round celebration of the Latinx community.”