The Math Forum's Bridging Research and Practice(BRAP): A powerful Collaborative Professional Development Model About the Bridging Research and Practice Project

Who are BRAP participants and how did the project work?

The Math Forum's Bridging Research and Practice Group consists of middle school and high school math teachers and Math Forum staff who are researchers with classroom teaching experience. During a period of 3 years, from 1998-2001, they spent time together in face-to-face workshops, participated in conversations through email and virtual meetings, read research articles and chapters, reflected on their implications for practice, shared videotapes of their classrooms, and talked about their teaching. They have also been conducting research through their practice, pursuing questions that have arisen out of their discussions.

These conversations and writing during this project have led to the development of the Videopaper, "Encouraging Mathematical Thinking Discourse around a Rich Problem."

What is the "Encouraging Mathematical Thinking" Videopaper?

"Encouraging Mathematical Thinking: Discourse around a Rich Problem" was created to establish a grounded conversation among researchers and practitioners, allowing teachers themselves to weave together research and practice.

The videopaper includes a presentation of a stimulating mathematics problem involving cylinders as it was taught in six classrooms, video clips of students in these classrooms, and an exploration of teaching practices and discussions about how to encourage mathematical thinking.

This videopaper presents an introductory view of our working knowledge about how teachers engage students in mathematical thinking, and why this is important. The focus of the videopaper in particular is on discourse in the classroom; the use of questioning, listening, writing, and reflection as a means of encouraging reciprocal conversation -- the kind of teaching that enables every person to develop his or her voice in creating mathematical understanding.

The videopaper was created as a result of a group effort which included multiple authors and many staff of the Math Forum. In October of 2000, the videopaper was listed as one of the selected sites for ENC Digital Dozen.

How can you participate?

We do not consider this videopaper a finished product; rather, we see it as the basis of a conversation still being developed, one in which you, the reader, are invited to participate. We invite colleagues who are interested in using collaboration, communication, and reflection as important tools for professional growth to join our conversation in progress.

You'll find a link to the discussion from the sidebar of every page in the videopaper. You can sign up for e-mail notifications from here.

You can learn more about ways in which the videopaper is being used by other readers by visiting our Models of Use page.

What is the Math Forum's role?

The Math Forum creates opportunities for teachers to make use of projects and to interact with others in those contexts; we then facilitate the publication of resources that result from such activities. This videopaper is one such publication, and the process of bringing teachers and staff together to create it is an example of the professional development offered by the Math Forum.

The Math Forum's Bridging Research and Practice project is a joint research venture with TERC and Michigan State University.

What do the BRAP teachers say about their participation in this project?

Throughout the project, the opportunity for collaboration with other mathematics educators and opportunity for personal reflection have enriched both my understanding and appreciation of good teaching.
-- Jon Basden, Highland Middle School, Highland, Illinois

What we know is that the improvement of teaching is never finished, and we may never know we are "right," but collaboration, communication, and reflection on teaching help to make us effective teachers in the classroom.
-- Susan Boone, Saint Agnes Academy, Houston, Texas

Being a professional educator takes time -- time to plan, time to practice, time to grade, time to communicate -- and I never have enough time. However, I now realize that adding reflection and research to my agenda have made my life as a teacher easier, not more difficult.
-- Judith Koenig, Platt Middle School, Boulder, Colorado

I believe that the experience of middle school and high school teachers working together is an effective model of professional development. I think we learned a lot from each other that we wouldn't have learned otherwise.
-- Cynthia Lanius, Education and Outreach, Rice University

This project allowed me the time and the safety to take the same kind of risk that I eventually asked of my kids.
-- Art Mabbott, Sammamish High School, Bellevue, Washington

What I have taken from this [project], aside from better understanding of my overall philosophy, has been my ability to structure classes and lessons to do several things: 1. help students think about basic mathematical ideas, 2. listen to my students, 3. wait for them, 4. ask questions that help them think about math in different ways, and 5. encourage my students to ask good questions themselves.
--John McKinstry, Westtown School, Westtown, PA, Pennsylvania

Somehow, when I reflected "in the presence" of others who were also thinking about what they did and how it was working, I learned more and deepened my understanding of what I do, and what my students need, than when I did it alone in the course of everyday teaching.
-- Susan Stein, Wilmington Friends, Wilmington, Delaware

Join our discussion

When should I summarize in order to move on, and when should I encourage my students to play out their thinking?

How do I know when it would help to wait, rather than ask a question or volunteer more information?

How do I judge whether to probe for a misconception, or let classmates be responsible for sense-making and validation?

What kinds of norms need to be established in the classroom in order to enable students to think about and share their confusions about mathematics?

How do I know I'm right?

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