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Math Initiative Quarterly Update

February 9, 2018

We are excited to share with you our Math Initiative update. Back in May, we held the invitational Math Initiative Symposium, which brought together teacher educators, scholars of mathematics education, and mathematicians to establish a research agenda and to form collaborations that would further the goals of the initiative. In the months following the symposium, we have made huge strides:

  • New research studies that are ongoing at USC

  • Collaborative grant proposals  

  • Math Initiative Blog to disseminate our work

New Research Studies

The Math Initiative team at USC has begun building a research agenda around elementary mathematics teaching and learning. The initiative funded five projects in the following areas for this academic year:

  • Yasemin Copur-Gencturk, Richard Rasiej, Jessica Rodrigues, and Ian Thacker are using both qualitative and quantitative methods to examine key practices that expert teachers and novel teachers engage in that affect student outcomes. We have partnered with a local school district to videotape teachers’ math instruction over the course of 2-3 weeks needed to cover a substantive topic in the curriculum (e.g., fractions) and measure the students’ learning and engagement. Data collection for this project will begin in February 2018.

  • Yasemin Copur-Gencturk, Jessica Rodrigues, and Richard Rasiej are building new assessments to measure fourth- and fifth-grade teachers’ mathematical proficiency in the challenging area of fraction learning. The goal of the assessments is to guide the design of professional development programs to improve mathematical proficiency.  We designed items and obtained feedback from several scholars in the field of mathematics education. We are currently collecting interviews to test the construct validity. We plan to collect data from a large number of teachers in late February 2018.

  • Richard Rasiej, Angela Hasan, and Jessica Rodrigues are implementing and using qualitative methods to carefully study the impact of a Teacher Train the Trainer model of professional development on elementary teachers’ understanding of key concepts in mathematics.

  • Jessica Rodrigues, Ian Thacker, and Gale Sinatra are developing a refutation text intervention to address a common mathematics misconception about conceptual understanding of fraction arithmetic among in-service elementary teachers. Positive effects of refutation texts for the remediation of misconceptions have been demonstrated in science education for years, but the texts have not yet been explored extensively for addressing mathematics misconceptions.

  • A team lead by Yasemin Copur-Gencturk is microgenetically investigating how learning occurs during professional development that considers the role of mathematics teachers’ knowledge and beliefs. Specifically, we are assessing how changes in teachers’ knowledge and beliefs regarding mathematics teaching and learning translate into changes in their conceptual understanding of fractions and their ability to communicate those ideas effectively with their students through mathematical discourse. The professional development we design will be implemented in summer 2018.

Collaborative Grant Proposals

We have moved forward with collaborations established during the May Symposium between USC and other leading organizations to submit grants to conduct important new research.

  • Morgan Polikoff, Janine Remillard from the University of Pennsylvania, Mary Kay Stein from the University of Pittsburgh, Mollie Appelgate from Iowa State University and Jessica Rodrigues have proposed a mixed-methods study to understand how elementary teachers use extra-curricular resources, such as those sourced from the internet, to supplement their mathematics curriculum materials. Our goal is to build a research tool that others can use to study this phenomenon at scale.

  • Yasemin Copur-Gencturk and Jessica Rodrigues, along with researchers from the USC Institute of Technology and Chandra Orrill from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, have proposed developing computerized professional development for mathematics teachers.

  • Yasemin Copur-Gencturk and Chandra Orrill, along with researchers from the University of Georgia and the University of Kansas, have proposed using new psychometric methods to measure teachers’ learning during professional development.

  • Yasemin Copur-Gencturk and Drew Gitomer have been invited to submit a full proposal to the Lyle Spencer Research Program. Copur-Gencturk and Gitomer are proposing to study the role of school districts’ absorptive capacity for teachers’ implementation of the Common Core Standards and new curricula.

Math Initiative Blog

Check back here for future updates on the initiative work. Our upcoming blog posts will feature a handful of topics, including a project led by Morgan Polikoff and Gale Sinatra with funding from the Mattel Children’s Foundation that allowed fourth-graders to learn science and math concepts with a “Speedometry” curriculum, postdoctoral scholar Jessica Rodrigues’s research in the area of students’ fraction understanding, and Ph.D. student Ian Thacker’s work on epistemic cognition in mathematics.

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