Teacher Quality -- Mathematics and Science Research

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Current information about this program can be found under the Education Research program.

LessonLab Inc.
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 achievement.

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Last Modified: 11/30/2006