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K-5 PRIME Mathematics Project Annual Report Overview

published: 11/16/2000
posted to site: 11/16/2000
K-5 PRIME Mathematics Project

K-5 PRIME Mathematics Project:

2000 Annual Report


PI: Carol Thornton

Illinois State University

Co-PI: Jeffrey Barrett

Illinois State University

November 14, 2000


PRIME is a collaborative effort involving Illinois State University’s Mathematics Education faculty and all 337 K-5 classroom mathematics teachers, their administrators, parents, and community partners in Peoria District 150, a $1.5 million project that received initial funding in March, 2000. As a local systemic change effort the project responds to teacher needs and their request for professional support in phasing in Investigations in Number, Data and Space. The teacher enhancement efforts of the PRIME Project are helping to fill a 20-year void in systemic professional development in mathematics teaching and is expected to impact performance of students on state math assessments, which has never risen above state averages.

Major project goals:

  • Improve teachers’ mathematical content knowledge, including knowledge of the technology used in Investigations.
  • Extend teachers' understanding of the pedagogy underlying effective implementation of the Investigations program.
  • Mentor teachers by promoting their reflective analysis of mathematics teaching and learning.
  • Foster the development of teacher leaders and communities of learners within and across schools.
  • Encourage and support teachers’ outreach efforts to communicate with families and the broader community about ways of improving mathematics teaching and learning.

Long-term goals include:

  • Improving student achievement in mathematics through an emphasis on problem solving, reasoning, and numbers sense and on the comprehensive development of conceptual understanding of mathematics;
  • Fostering better grade-to-grade K-5 program coordination leading to more successful entry into middle school mathematics; and
  • Developing structures necessary to sustain and extend the momentum of the PRIME Project beyond funding by working with individual schools to create a mechanism to insure continued growth. This effort complements the district’s coordinated follow-through program.


Year One Project Activities:

Our program began with an intensive summer session in June focused on improving teachers’ understanding of geometry and measurement content and teaching practices related to these topics in the Investigations program. Systematic follow-through included a series of three seminars and extensive classroom-based support from PRIME staff. A Mathlinks Committee of 32 lead teachers from the schools participating in the Project met in September and in November to monitor grade-level coordination and implementation of Investigations, and to provide local input to PRIME staff for project activity.

The PRIME Advisory Board met with district and university staff on September 14. The staff supported the Core Evaluation activities required by Horizons.


Year One Findings:

Given that the project was just funded last March, findings are limited. Anecdotal evidence supports extremely positive attitudes toward project participation. With differing levels of success, teachers have implemented geometry or measurement activities in their classrooms. The extent of implementation has varied across grade levels due to different timeframes these topics are addressed at each grade level. We are becoming more sensitive to problems and challenges facing us: teachers' content-knowledge is generally weak; teachers struggle to shift the focus of classroom discussion onto student thinking. They also struggle to identify or create 'worthwhile mathematical tasks'.

We have initiated five case-study accounts of teachers' practice to document changes in teachers' practice and knowledge over the duration of the project.


Professional Development

The key components of our professional development plan during this first project year have focused on deepening teachers' content knowledge, deepening teachers' understanding of effective pedagogy and assessment that promotes student learning, and helping teachers become conversant with the geometry and measurement units from the Investigations in Number, Data and Space curriculum. We have specifically sought to improve teacher's content knowledge of geometry and measurement in three major ways: 1) during our week-long summer institute we reserved 1.5 hours each day to focus exclusively on content development in addition to the integrated development of geometry and measurement content issues during all other sessions; 2) during our fall seminars we revisited geometry and measurement content issues; and 3), during fall on-site visits to teachers our staff have frequently interacted with individual teachers to clarify and develop their mathematical understanding. As one example, during the fall seminar series we reflected on mathematical content by viewing and analyzing the mathematical task and students mathematical thinking in a video clip of a classroom geoblock lesson based on the Investigations curriculum.

Our efforts to deepen teachers' understanding of effective pedagogy were begun during our Summer Institute. A major focus was on improving questioning skills so that teachers: 1) better attend to student thinking; 2) begin to use student thinking as a basis for instructional decisions; and 3) better engage student thinking and discourse. These efforts have been reinforced by our fall seminar series and during on-site visits to teachers. This focus on questioning together with worthwhile mathematical tasks and engaged student learning constitute the three PRIME Classroom Strategies that have guided our professional development during fall seminars and teacher visits.

We introduced the geometry and measurement modules of the Investigations curriculum during the Summer Institute so teachers would have time to explore and understand the intent and scope of these instructional materials prior to implementing them. Teachers analyzed problem-centered activities, articulated grade-level content expectations and taught geometry and measurement mini-lessons to each other. They worked through representative tasks (including on-computer and off-computer activities) from the curriculum materials, and worked with other teachers at grade level to plan and organize their geometry and measurement units for the year.

Direct support for teachers began in early September with on-site support to teachers as they implemented these materials in their classroom. Five staff each devote two full days each week in schools interacting with PRIME teachers. This support includes classroom coaching and team teaching, interaction with teachers during individual or grade-level planning periods, before and after-school meetings with individual teachers or small groups of teachers. We have been using these opportunities to discuss issues of implementing Investigations in their classrooms, address issues of scope and sequence, reflect on student work for assessment, and to analyze levels of teacher questioning.

Teachers have been extensively involved in project activities during this first year. 330 teachers participated in our Summer Institute. A full cohort of 337 teachers have engaged in project activities this fall. 313 teachers have participated in 46 hours of professional development; 24 new teachers have completed 10 hours. It is expected that all teachers will complete 50 hours by May of 2001. Principals attended sessions during the Summer Institute and continue to meet with staff through regular monthly meetings with the district Curriculum Coordinator (Project Co-PI); staff regularly interact with principals during their on-site visits.

Extreme heat (with no air conditioning/fans) and teacher strike negotiations distracted our Peoria teachers during September. This delayed some of the September seminar sessions. By the time of the October seminars, all teachers had begun their work in earnest. The teachers brought samples of student work from Investigations modules they had carried out in their classrooms and shared experiences, concerns, and suggestions for other teachers. That ideas from stronger teachers have impacted other teachers is clear from our on-site visits. Though not without its challenges, we feel we are nearing the completion of a very productive and successful first project year.


Outreach activities

Outreach activities have taken several forms in the K-5 PRIME Mathematics Project during this, our first year:

* Family Math Nights are being planned by PRIME teachers with support from our PRIME staff,

* News releases about project activities appeared (Dec 1999, and Oct 2000) in the local newspaper and on the local television channel,

* PRIME staff have led math tutor training sessions for parents and adult volunteers from local businesses who are active in the Adopt-A-School math tutor programs for K-5 students.