Current information about this program can be found under the Education
Principal Investigator: James Stigler
Improving Achievement by Maintaining the Learning Potential of Rich Mathematics Problems: An Experimental Study of a Video- and Internet-Based Professional Development Program
The purpose of this project is to create a video- and Internet-based professional development program to help teachers improve mathematics instruction in the middle school grades. International research studies suggest that lessons in the United States rarely involve discussions of rich
mathematical problems during which students are asked to explicitly make
connections among ideas, facts and procedures, in contrast to lessons taught in
countries where student achievement is higher. Although U.S. teachers present
just as many rich problems as the teachers in the other countries, they seldom
maintain the focus on the conceptual aspects of the problems as the lesson
continues. This research team hypothesizes that if teachers would use these rich
mathematics problems more regularly to help students make connections among
concepts and procedures, rather than converting those problems into tasks using
procedures, student achievement might be improved.
The researchers are creating a two-year professional development program for
sixth grade teachers to learn how to identify, design, and present problems in
challenging forms as part of their regular classroom teaching. Most of the 4,400
students in these Los Angeles area schools come from low-income minority families.
The mathematics teachers in these schools all use the same pre-algebra textbook
in their classes. The researchers are randomly assigning the 72 sixth-grade pre-algebra
teachers to the experimental professional development program or to the school
district's traditional professional development program. The researchers are evaluating
the impact of the two training programs on: (1) teachers' knowledge of mathematical
content for classroom use (i.e., pedagogical content knowledge); (2) teachers'
ability to present rich problems in their lessons; and, (3) students' mathematics