$2.2 Million NSF Grant Helps Enhance Middle School Math Instruction

Over the next few years, K-12 mathematics will undergo a facelift in New York and 44 other states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. This national move to improve the way educators teach math and the way students learn requires teachers across the country to align their curriculum and instruction to address the more rigorous standards, especially during the middle school years.
Jeffrey ChoppinA new National Science Foundation (NSF) grant will allow a professor at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education to study and help streamline this transition as school districts set out to adopt and implement these national standards and improve mathematics instruction for all students. Under the four-year, $2.2 million grant, Jeffrey Choppin, associate professor in teaching and curriculum at the Warner School, will lead research to support middle school math teachers in designing instruction that addresses the content included in the Common Core Math Standards. 
Funded through the NSF’s Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL), the award enables Choppin, principal investigator for the project, titled Developing Principles for Mathematics Curriculum Design and Use in the Common Core Era, to expand his research on how teachers draw from curriculum materials to provide high-quality education for all students. Choppin will collaborate with scholars and co-principal investigators Jon Davis, from Western Michigan University; Corey Drake, from Michigan State University; and Amy Roth McDuffie, from Washington State University.
The Common Core Math Standards, developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and National Governors Association (NGA) in consultation with teachers, parents, experts, and school administrators from across the country, were released in 2010 and have been adopted by 45 states. The goal is to make students college- and career-ready by the time they graduate from high school.
According to Choppin, there is little understanding of how U.S. teachers understand and draw from curriculum resources to support student learning of rigorous content, such as that found in the Common Core Standards.
“We are pleased to receive this important award,” says Choppin. “The research supported by the National Science Foundation is designed to help us understand the needs of and ways in which teachers understand and use curriculum materials to enact these new national standards, with the goal of increasing the mathematics achievement of all students, particularly those traditionally underrepresented in mathematics-related professions.”
The project will publish principles for curriculum developers to help in the design of teacher resources for curriculum materials, professional development designers and instructional leaders to help teachers understand and better utilize curriculum materials, and teachers to use curriculum resources and design instruction—all with a focus on the Common Core Standards.
A sample of 72 sixth- to eighth-grade teachers, along with their instructional leaders, with diverse demographic, geographic, and curriculum backgrounds, from up to a dozen school districts will be selected to participate in the research.
Using multiple methods to collect data—including surveys, assessments of teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching, observations of teachers’ use and enactment of curriculum materials, analyses of student text and associated resource materials, and teacher logs—the research study will specifically address the following: design features of materials that support effective instructional design; teacher and district characteristics that support effective instructional design; teachers use of materials to design instruction that addresses the new Common Core Standards; and design practices that lead to instruction addressing the progressions and practices in the Common Core.
The dissemination of research findings will include guidelines for curriculum developers and instructional leaders to make resources more transparent and accessible and to support teachers in designing instruction, refined instruments for studying teachers’ curricular practices, presentations at national conferences, and publications in mathematics and teacher education journals.
Choppin adds, “Our research is intended to help teachers as they gain an understanding about how to effectively use available resources and for school districts as they adopt and implement curriculum materials and the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. We hope that our findings will be able to inform the design of teacher resources for curriculum materials and curriculum-related professional development now and in the future.”
Choppin is a mathematics educator, directing the mathematics teacher education program at Warner. He focuses his research on the ways teachers develop the capacity to use innovative curriculum materials and what they learn in the process, particularly with the ways that students reason around mathematical concepts, and on issues of equitable classroom practices in mathematics. In 2008, he was awarded a five-year NSF CAREER grant that investigates teacher usage of innovative curriculum materials and how districts support the use of materials.
The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. Since 2007, the Warner School has been awarded $8.6 million from the National Science Foundation in its efforts to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in K-12 schools.
About the Warner School of Education
Founded in 1958, the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education offers master’s and doctoral degree programs in teaching and curriculum, school leadership, higher education, educational policy, counseling, human development, and health professions education. The Warner School of Education offers a new accelerated option for its EdD programs that allows eligible students to earn a doctorate in education in as few as three years part time while holding a professional job in the same field. The Warner School of Education is recognized both regionally and nationally for its tradition of preparing practitioners and researchers to become leaders and agents of change in schools, universities, and community agencies; generating and disseminating research; and actively participating in education reform. 
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Tags: Common Core Math Standards, Jeffrey Choppin, mathematics education, National Science Foundation, research, research, teacher preparation, teaching and curriculum