100 Institute RD
+1 (508) 8316096
Affiliated Department or Office
BA University of Richmond 2005
PhD University of Virginia 2011

Erin Ottmar is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Learning Sciences at WPI. She received her BA in psychology and elementary education from the University of Richmond. After college, she spent several years teaching in Ecuador and Japan. In 2011, she received her PhD in Educational Psychology: Applied Developmental Science from the University of Virginia. After graduate school, spent 3 years as a post-doctoral research scientist at the University of Richmond. Before coming to WPI, she was most recently a visiting research associate in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University.

Her research aims to design, develop, and evaluate classroom interventions that improve mathematics teaching and learning. Erin’s research is highly interdisciplinary and focuses on the intersections of educational, cognitive, and developmental psychology. Over the past several years, she has co-developed two dynamic educational technologies that embed perceptual learning and gesture into the learning of mathematical concepts. From Here to There (FH2T) is an engaging, puzzle-based, educational iPad application that allows students to explore patterns and properties of arithmetic and symbolic algebra by rearranging, splitting, and manipulating numbers and expressions to reach a specified goal. Based on this research, she is currently developing Graspable Math, an interactive web-based tool that allows you to manipulate and solve mathematical expressions and equations. Her empirical work uses data collected from these technologies to answer important theoretical questions about student interactions, problem solving, and mathematics teaching and learning. She also uses classroom observations, longitudinal data, and multi-level modeling to examine how mathematics and social-emotional learning (SEL) interventions in schools can enhance students’ opportunities to learn mathematics. Ultimately, Erin is interested in understanding how cognitive and non-cognitive pathways combine to produce learning and growth for all children in K-12 mathematics classrooms (and beyond!)

Why WPI? I absolutely love teaching and mentoring students! WPI is a perfect fit for me because of its focus on both theory and practice, project based learning, and interdisciplinary collaborations. As a teacher, I believe that the best learning occurs in a social community, where every student is supported, takes control of their own learning, and is comfortable communicating their ideas and observing and challenging others. In my classes, I love engaging students in challenging problem solving tasks that blend content and pedagogy, encourage them to actively explore and grapple with applied, real world issues and concepts, synthesize information, and translate between concrete and abstract ideas. I also believe that true learning (and change) cannot occur unless people become aware of their limitations and strive to overcome them. I encourage students to think about learning as a process, in both the classroom, in the community, and in their lives. Students should critically (and constantly) evaluate their own learning goals, reflect on their own performance, and use this to inform their next steps. It is my hope that I can instill a passion for inquiry that encourages undergraduate and graduate students to creatively explore their interests, engage conversations about real world issues, and give students an appreciation of the learning sciences from multiple lenses.

I direct the Math Abstraction Play Learning an Embodiment (MAPLE) lab at WPI. I am actively looking for undergraduate and graduate students with a wide range of backgrounds who are interested in working (or volunteering) in the MAPLE lab . If you are interested, please contact me!

Professional Highlights & Honors
NSF CAREER Award, 2022
Sigma Xi Outstanding Junior Faculty Researcher Award, 2022
AERA Early Career Fellow- Study of Deeper Learning (AERA-SDL), 2016


Worcester Business Journal
WPI researcher receives $668K to study visual cues in math learning

Erin Ottmar, professor of learning sciences and psychology will research ways to improve algebra comprehension. The Worcester Business Journal reported on how Ottmar will consider the use of color and spacing in the presentation of equations.

Worcester Business Journal
Two WPI projects receive $1.6M combined to improve sanitation, education

The Worcester Business Journal highlighted two grants secured by WPI researchers: a $900,000 grant secured by WPI’s Institute of Science and Technology for Development (instead) for work in Ethiopia related to WPI MicroFlush toilets; and a $700,000 National Science Foundation grant secured by WPI researcher and associate professor Erin Ottmar to improve math tools for middle school teachers.