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Annual Report Overviews


Implementing Investigations in Mathematics (InMath) LSC

published: 11/16/2001
posted to site: 11/16/2001

Implementing Investigations in Mathematics (InMath) LSC
Annual Overview

by Kate Kline and Theresa J. Grant
Western Michigan University
September 1, 2000 - August 31, 2001

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-six participating schools across these districts have approximately 400 teachers and 10,000 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 we have held: week-long summer workshops, Reflecting on Teaching sessions, one-day conferences, Coordinating Council meetings, and district-specific workshops. 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 (made up of representation from each district) met bi-monthly in year 1 to assess project activities, plan professional development, and discuss plans for school/district meetings. 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). Finally, a cadre of teacher leaders was recruited in the Spring of 2000. This group was established to increase our abilities to meet the professional development needs of the InMath participants, as well as providing a vehicle for sustainability of our efforts after the grant ends.

One of our major accomplishments this year continues to be our ability to provide a range of professional development opportunities to meet the needs of our participants, and push their thinking about teaching and learning mathematics. The major change that has occurred this year is that the project directors are no longer facilitating all these offerings; our group of teacher leaders has begun to co-facilitate many of the offerings. We began the 2000-2001 school year by meeting with the teacher leaders to reflect on the responses to evaluations from the previous year's activities and plan for the new school year. In particular, we looked at a question from the summer workshop evaluation forms in which we had asked teachers to indicate what kinds of professional development they would like offered during the following school year. Based on these discussions we decided to offer: another series of grade-level specific "Reflecting on Teaching" sessions, as we had done the previous year; and some school/district specific sessions. In addition, we chose not to hold another Saturday conference for two main reasons: 1) by using the "conference" format we were unable to control for the quality of sessions to the same extent that we could in our other formats; and 2) this kind of professional development did not garner as much interest as evidenced by the summer evaluations.

The "Reflecting on Teaching" 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 teacher's 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 during the 1999-2000 school year, we decided to offer another round of these during the 2000-2001 school year. We have continued to focus these sessions predominantly on the number strand, given the prominence of the number strand in the elementary mathematics curriculum. At the same time, we have continued to refine the structure of these sessions by altering the types of questions that are posed to the participants. We continue to think hard about the issues about teaching and learning that are important to bring to the surface, so that the participants can consider advantages and disadvantages of certain approaches and the effects these approaches have on student learning. A total of ___ teachers and ___ administrators attended these sessions.

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 data and change strands, and attracted 225 teachers and 13 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 data and change ideas by engaging them in activities taken predominantly from the Investigations curriculum. These content sessions included analyzing numerical and categorical data, comparing data sets, analyze change over time, and probability. 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, deepen their reflection and analysis of teaching and student learning (including Reflecting on Teaching sessions), and grapple with the challenges of assessing student understanding.

The strong attendance at our professional development sessions is one indicator of our success. Three hundred and fifty eight teachers and teacher-leaders are currently participating in the InMath project, and an additional 170 teachers have, at some point, been participating members of the InMath project. [This additional group includes teachers who currently do not teach mathematics (including special education teachers) and teachers who have left participating schools.] Thus far the 358 targeted teachers have received a total of 26,362 hours of professional development, an average of 74 hours. On the evaluation form for what was intended to be our final summer workshop, we asked the participants whether or not they would like us to add another one or two-day summer workshop to revisit previous strands. The fact that a majority of the participants indicated that they do want us to add another summer workshop is another indication of the success of all three annual summer workshops.

In addition to the professional development offerings designed for all the InMath participants, the Project Directors designed and implemented professional development for the cadre of teacher leaders that had been recruited during the Spring of 2000. These leaders have attended two multi-day institutes on leadership, along with attending follow-up meetings during the year designed to provide them with the support to engage participants in deep thinking about teaching and learning mathematics. As a result, the teacher leaders played a central role in the delivery of professional development during the 2000-2001 school year. Although the majority of the professional development offerings were designed by the Project Directors, the teacher leaders co-facilitated all of the Reflecting on Teaching sessions, some of the summer sessions, and school/district-specific sessions. It is our intention that these leaders will take on greater responsibilities during the final year of the grant.

Copyright 2001 by Kate Kline and Theresa J. Grant
All rights reserved