Development of a Math Laboratory at the Professional Development School

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RESEARCH PROJECT PROPOSAL
TITLE OF THE PROJECT: DEVELOPMENT OF A MATH LABORATORY AT THE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SCHOOL

Presented to the Faculty Development Committee
Dr. Sheila Mehigan
Assistant Professor of Education
March 11, 2002

RESEARCH PROJECT PROPOSAL

TITLE OF THE PROJECT: DEVELOPMENT OF A MATH LABORATORY AT THE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SCHOOL {PDS}

PROJECT SUMMARY

This project is being developed for the purpose of funding a math laboratory to be set up during the 2002-2003 school year where preservice (college students) will work with at-risk K-5 students at the Professional Development School (PDS) at Jackson Elementary School. Professional Developments Schools (PDS) are public school settings in which a school district and a college/university partner to provide on-site educational courses and field experiences for preservice (college students) teachers that are integrated with on-going professional development for inservice (certified) teachers. The math lab at the school will benefit mathematics education because of it two-fold purpose. The first being a change in self-efficacy towards math for the at risk K-5students and the preservice teachers and the second an improvement in mathematics communication for both groups. Working in conjunction with at-risk K-5 students, these preservice teachers will have many rich opportunities to grow in the areas specified by the NCTM math communications standard. Through these opportunities they will “organize and consolidate their mathematical thinking, communicate their mathematical thinking coherently and clearly to peers, teachers and others, analyze and evaluate the mathematical thinking and strategies of others, and use the language of mathematics to express mathematical ideas precisely.” (NCTM, 2000) An additional benefit to this project would be that the teachers at the school would be able to see firsthand the results of working with the students in the math exploratory lab. They will be able to adapt the procedures and methods to their own classrooms to bring about more effective mathematics communication with their students.

NARRATIVE

Current Situation

As teacher educators, we believe that school districts have “paid closer attention to math instruction than reading” because the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Standards explicitly have been communicated and integrated in math curriculum and teaching methods. However, since the revision of the Principles and Standards, school districts and colleges of education have had to re-examine their curriculums to include this second wave of reform. One area, in which we have noted a lack of research, as well as preparedness on the part of preservice (college students) teachers studying to become elementary school teachers, is in the area of math communication skills. Although many math researchers have noted the importance of teacher discourse practice to constructivist teaching in math (Inagaki, Morita, & Hatano, 1999; Wood, Cobb, & Yackel, 1990) and student motivation for mathematics (Hatano, 1988; Kloosterman & Gorman, 1990), there remains a dearth of research about effective ways to help teachers become math communicators.

Developing mathematical communication skills, especially among non-math majors, has many potential challenges. One such challenge is the common belief among preservice teachers that they are “not good at math” and have difficulty explaining their thinking.” In many cases these novice teachers may have experienced math programs that emphasized algorithms and completion over process and understanding. And in most cases, they represent women who chose to have minimal exposure to math coursework, so important to subject-matter knowledge (Stein et al., 1990). Therefore, an equally important goal in improving mathematical communication skills is providing opportunities for teachers to build their teaching efficacy regarding...
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