Annual Report Overviews
Implementing Investigations in Mathematics (InMath) Annual Report Overview
Implementing Investigations in Mathematics (InMath) LSC
September 1, 1999 August 31, 2000
Implementing Investigations in Mathematics (InMath) is a partnership between Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, MI) and 6 school districts in west Michigan--Battle Creek Public Schools, Holland Christian Schools, Lakeshore Public Schools, Portland Public Schools, Traverse City Public Schools, and Vicksburg Community Schools. The twenty-three participating schools across these districts have 381 teachers and about 9,500 K-5 students. These school districts are committed to district-wide reform of their elementary mathematics program through their adoption of the NSF-funded elementary mathematics curriculum, Investigations in Number, Data, and Space. Investigations is a K-5 mathematics program aligned with national and state standards in mathematics teaching and learning. Organized around four major strands--number, geometry and measurement, data, and change--there are six to eleven modules for each grade level. The focus of the program is on reasoning and problem solving where students are required to explain their thinking orally and in writing. Successful implementation of Investigations requires that teachers understand the mathematical content, use questioning to probe students' reasoning, and promote discussion and sharing of ideas to encourage construction of knowledge by students rather than dispensing of knowledge by the teacher. The InMath collaborative is designed to help participating schools implement Investigations.
Specific project objectives are: improving teachers' mathematical content knowledge, including knowledge of the technology employed by the curriculum; extending elementary school teachers' understanding of the pedagogical underpinnings of the Investigations program; facilitating elementary school teachers' abilities to critically analyze the process of teaching and student learning; fostering the development of teacher leaders and communities of learners within and across schools; and supporting schools' efforts to communicate positively with the community about issues pertaining to reforming mathematics teaching and learning.
To accomplish these goals, week-long summer workshops, reflecting on teaching sessions, annual conferences, and Coordinating Council meetings are held each year. Week-long summer workshops (discussed below) are held each summer of the project and focus on a particular content strand. Reflecting on Teaching sessions (discussed below) have served as the major school-year follow-up to summer workshops and have provided teachers with opportunities to deal with issues and concerns at their particular grade level and share ideas and experiences with colleagues from different districts. The Coordinating Council met bi-monthly in year 1 to assess project activities, plan professional development, and discuss plans for school/district meetings. Council membership had representation from each of the six districts, in the form of teachers, mathematics coordinator, and parent liaisons. Finally, an all-day annual conference (discussed below) was held in March of year 1 to provide teachers with opportunities to interact with colleagues and discuss issues around implementing a reform curricula in the classroom (e.g., student thinking , teacher questioning) and outside the classroom (e.g. State-wide testing, dealing with parents).
One of our major accomplishments this year has been our ability to offer a range of professional development opportunities to meet the needs of our participants, and push their thinking about teaching and learning mathematics. We began the 1999-2000 school year by meeting with the newly created Coordinating Council in order to discuss the professional development needs of the districts. Based on these discussions we planned and implemented a series of grade-specific workshops held during the school year, called "Reflecting on Teaching" sessions. These workshops were designed to encourage teachers to think more deeply about the main components of a lesson: launching or introducing the lesson, supporting students as they work on mathematics task(s), and closing the lesson. By utilizing information in the teachers guide, a videotape of the lesson being taught by an InMath teacher, and student work from the classroom, we were able to engage the participants in thinking deeply about the mathematical and pedagogical issues involved in teaching with a reform curriculum. The use of actual video tape and student work allowed us to push the participants beyond the superficial and concentrate on how to support students to think hard about specific mathematics.
Given the success of this professional development format, we made the theme of our annual Saturday conference "Becoming a Reflective Practitioner." We were honored to have Deborah Schifter, from the Education Development Center (EDC) in Massachusetts, give the keynote address on engaging with students mathematical ideas. Her address set the tone for thinking hard about how students think, and how teachers can support that thinking. She also facilitated a Reflecting session on a lesson on fractions. The rest of the conference offered teachers a choice of sessions on topics like: assessing and evaluating student thinking, reflecting on teacher questioning, parent and community relations, and changes in the fourth grade state mathematics test. Sessions were facilitated by the project directors, other mathematics educators, and the InMath teachers themselves.
The year ended with our annual week-long summer workshop which was offered twice, during the last two weeks of June. This workshop focused on the geometry and measurement strand, and attracted 239 teachers and 14 administrators. As can be seen in the evaluation report, the workshops were considered a success by the participants. First, all participants spent their mornings attending sessions that focused on the K-5 development of mathematics content by engaging them in activities taken predominantly from the Investigations curriculum (this included two sessions focused on the use of computer software in the curriculum). Though focused on issues of mathematics content, these sessions all dealt with pedagogical issues as well. Based on feedback from the week-long workshop held the previous year, we offered participants a choice in deciding which sessions to attend in the afternoon. These sessions are described in the evaluators report, and included opportunities for teachers to extend their understanding of mathematics through collaborative work on problems from a middle school reform curriculum, and deepen their reflection and analysis of teaching and student learning (including Reflecting on Teaching sessions). In order to assess the participants understanding of some of the big ideas in geometry and measurement, we had the teachers create concept maps on Monday morning and again on Friday afternoon. The concept maps created at the end of the week illustrated the participants increased understandings of the relationships between two-dimensional and three-dimensional geometry and measurement concepts.
The strong attendance at our professional development sessions is one indicator of our success. Thus far a total of 289 teachers, who have been involved in the grant since its inception, have participated in 17,245 professional development hours for an average of 60 hours per teacher. An additional 47 teachers came on board in June and have participated in a about 2,100 hours. Approximately 72% of our teachers attended the summer week-long workshop and half attended the Reflecting on Teaching session offered at their grade level. On the evaluation form for the summer workshop this year we asked the participants what kinds of professional development they would like offered during the 2000-2001 school year. Reflecting on Teaching sessions were requested by the majority of the participants, which supports our view that this type of professional development--grounded in classroom practice and dealing with mathematics and pedagogy in an integrated wayis a powerful way to support teachers continued growth.
With the exception of the annual Saturday conference held in March, the majority of the professional development for InMath had been conducted by Project Directors and another experienced mathematics educator. In order to build capacity for supporting reform at the school and district levels, and to ensure success after the life of this grant, it was necessary to cultivate a group of teacher leaders. In March 2000 we began to recruit individuals to apply to become an InMath leader. We held a two-day Leadership Institute in May 2000 for 18 teachers and 4 administrators. These leaders co-facilitated at least one session during the summer workshops in June, and have agreed to co-facilitate at least one all-day Reflecting on Teaching session at their grade level during the 2000-2001 school year. [We submitted a proposal for, and were granted, supplemental funds to support this new component to the InMath grant.] Our next challenge is to provide our cadre of teacher leaders the support they need to engage participants in this kind of deep thinking about teaching and learning mathematics.