Math in the Middle


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Math in the Middle

  • Math in the Middle

  • What are we learning about

  • rural mathematics education?

  • Ruth Heaton and Jim Lewis

  • University of Nebraska – Lincoln


Invest in high-quality teachers

  • Invest in high-quality teachers

  • * To improve K-12 student achievement in mathematics and to significantly reduce achievement gaps in the mathematical performance of diverse student populations.



M2 Partnership Vision

  • Create and sustain a University, Educational Service Unit (ESU), Local School District partnership

  • Educate and support teams of outstanding middle level (Grades 5 – 8) mathematics teachers who will become intellectual leaders in their schools, districts, and ESUs.

  • Provide evidence-based contributions to research on learning, teaching, and professional development.

  • Place a special focus on rural teachers, schools, and districts.



Rural needs assessment

  • The top five priorities for the rural educators we surveyed are:

  • (1) expanding opportunities for collaboration and resource sharing,

  • (2) increasing student engagement with learning,

  • (3) creating professional learning communities, (4) understanding student learning skills and abilities, and

  • (5) deepening teacher knowledge of their content area.



M2 teachers are spread across Nebraska



Reaching rural teachers with M2 courses

  • Academic Year Courses

    • Blackboard
    • Polycom
    • Breeze
    • PC NoteTaker
    • Increased Instructional Support
    • Additional offerings?


Reaching rural teachers with M2 courses

  • Bringing Professional Development Opportunities to Rural Nebraska

    • Courses at ESU 13 in Scottsbluff
      • Math 800T – Summer 2005
      • 1-Day Mathematics Workshop – February 2006
      • Math 802T – Summer 2006
    • How do we finance similar opportunities?


Math in the Middle Research Agenda

  • What are the capabilities of teachers to translate the mathematical knowledge and habits of mind acquired through the professional development opportunities of M2 into measurable changes in teaching practice?

  • To what extent do observable changes in mathematics teaching practice translate into measurable improvement in student performance?



Understanding The Rural Context

  • • 64 of 96 Math in the Middle Participants are teaching in rural areas of Nebraska

  • • 64 rural Math in the Middle Participants teach in 45 different school districts and 51 different schools in Nebraska



Of 64 Rural Math in the Middle Participants:

  • • 26 teach in towns of less than 1,000

  • • 32 teach in towns between 1,000-15,000

  • • 6 teach in towns of more than 15,000



Assessing Student Achievement

  • • the research challenge created by Nebraska’s state assessment system

  • using local assessments, standardized tests, and our own assessment

  • • a qualitative study of the nature of middle school student responses to alternative assessment items requiring reasoning and communication



Talking to Teachers

  • • A study study of the professional lives of rural Math in the Middle participants, funded by Nebraska Rural Initiative, Sandy Scofield, UNL.

  • relationship to colleagues and the community

  • - the advantages and tensions of teaching in a small school

  • extracurricular school related responsibilities

  • out of school responsibilities



Asking about Leadership and Instructional Improvement

  • Survey, Jim Spillane, Northwestern University

  • sources of instructional leadership

  • - network within M2 and statewide

  • activities and opinions related to school leadership in instructional improvement, expertise in mathematics leadership and the conditions associated with each

  • - people, resources and activities teachers seek out to gain information and advice related to teaching in general and math specifically



Classroom Observations

  • What does it look like as M2 teachers translate mathematics learning in the Institute into classroom practice?

  • How do teachers translate the idea of mathematical habits of mind as developed in the Institute into their work with middle school students?



  • How does diversity among students impact the improvement of mathematics education?

    • What are the capacities of M2 teachers working with diverse populations to translate what they are learning into classroom practice?
    • What does a M2 teacher’s classroom practice look like when diversity is envisioned as an asset rather than as a deficiency?


  • How is school capacity built in settings where more than one M2 teacher is in a school?

  • How do M2 teachers interact both with each other and with other (non-M2) teachers in their school communities?

  • What is the position of M2 teachers in their school communities as a whole, in terms of leadership, decision making, and classroom practice?





Knowledge Generated by M2 Teachers

  • Using Math Vocabulary Building to Increase Problem Solving Abilities in a 5th Grade Classroom

  • The Effect of Student Journals and Group Work on Students’ Attitudes in Math

  • Ability Perceptions of ‘Tracked’ vs. ‘Untracked’ Seventh Grade Math Students



  • Greater Understanding Through Improved Homework Justifications

  • The Effects of Self-Assessment on Learning

  • Self-Directed Learning in the Middle School Classroom



  • How to Better Prepare for Assessment and Create a More Technologically Advanced Classroom

  • Daily Problem Solving Warm-Ups: Harboring Mathematical Thinking in the Middle School Classroom

  • Departmentalization in the 5th Grade Classroom: Re-thinking the Elementary School Model



  • Bad Medicine: Homework or Headache: Responsibility and Accountability for Middle Level Mathematics Students

  • The Effects of Teaching Problem Solving Strategies to Low Achieving Students

  • Factors that Influence Mathematics Attitudes

  • The Effect of Staff Development on Teacher Practice

  • Math Anxiety: What Can Teachers Do to Help Their Students Overcome the Feeling?



  • Cooperative Learning Groups in the Eighth Grade Math Classroom

  • An In-Depth Study of Student Engagement

  • Motivating Middle School Students



An Analysis of the Action Research Projects

  • What does it mean to the teachers to translate learning in the Institute into classroom practice?

  • What insights do these studies offer into the nature of teacher learning and change?




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