Mind Your Math

It just adds up — math education is about more than learning to add and subtract.

It just adds up — math education is about more than learning to add and subtract. It takes reasoning and creativity, skills that students learn by sharing ideas. It takes what educators call developing “mathematical habits of mind.”

With a five-year $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, OSU researchers are working with classroom teachers, school administrators and college students in education to improve mathematical discourse in the classroom.

Collaborators include researchers at Portland State University, the nonprofit Teachers Development Group in West Linn, the Woodburn School District and RMC Research Corporation. They are creating a cadre of math education leaders in school districts across the state.

The grant supports participation by about 100 teachers from 50 schools in 10 Oregon school districts in grades from kindergarten through 12th grade. Another 80 teachers are supported through funding from the Oregon Department of Education and school districts.

The project focuses on all content areas of math, says Karen Higgins, director of teacher education in the OSU College of Education. “Writing and talking about math increases conceptual understanding,” she adds. The challenge for classroom teachers is to find worthwhile tasks that engage students in teamwork, debate and discussion.

How students approach their solutions contributes to their mathematical habits of mind. And ultimately, says Tom Dick, OSU mathematics professor and project leader, it’s about raising student achievement.