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Topic: Brief Report on Completed NSF Project
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Jerry P. Becker

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Registered: 12/3/04
Brief Report on Completed NSF Project
Posted: Jan 31, 2000 1:15 PM
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att1.dat (6.7 K)

Note: What follows is a brief final report of a K-8 teacher enhancement
project that was recently completed. The project was funded by the National
Science Foundation, and a private foundation and several businesses also
contributed funds. The title of the project was Developing Elementary and
Middle School Mathematics Professionals, which was underway 1995-99. A
major focus of the project was the Open-Ended Approach - A New Proposal for
Teaching Mathematics -- see
numitems=16 at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics website
[] Some further descriptive details of the project are
available at
esult_pos=259 on the Annenberg/CPB Learner Online website at .


PROJECT CO-DIRECTORS : Jerry P. Becker, Southern Illinois University
Carbondale; Michael Koenig, Belleville, IL

Developing Elementary and Middle School Mathematics Professionals

OVERVIEW: This project aimed to enhance the mathematics knowledge and
instructional skills of teachers of kindergarten through grade 8 from 12
school districts in and around Belleville, Illinois. Participants attended
a summer institute and academic-year meetings to learn the Japanese open
approach to teaching mathematics, which stresses multiple ways to solve a
problem, multiple solutions, and students' own formulation of problems. The
heart of the approach is providing an opportunity for students to use their
own natural mathematical thinking abilities.

STRATEGIES: Each summer, a new group of teachers attended an intensive
four-week institute led by a Southern Illinois University (SIUC) faculty
member and master teachers (two each from grade span K-2, 3-5, and 6-8).
Institute leaders modeled instructional techniques that reflected the
Japanese open approach. The leaders modeled how to: 1) present a problem,
2) ensure that students understand what they are expected to do, 3)
purposefully observe students' problem solving solutions and record them on
the chalkboard for all to see, 4) discuss and compare students' solutions,
and 5) summarize the lesson. They also demonstrated an assessment method
that was integrated into the lessons. Participants assessed work for
fluency, a quantitative measure that reflects the number of correct ways a
student solved a problem or how many correct answers were offered;
flexibility, the number of different mathematical ideas used; originality,
a measure of insightful observations; and elegance, the extent to which the
student expressed thinking in mathematical notation.

Participants also were introduced to new mathematics concepts and learned
to use manipulatives and materials from several nationally available
curricula. They received materials from the Middle Grades Mathematics
Project (Michigan State University) and Everyday Mathematics (University of
Chicago School Mathematics Project). Participants also received The
Open-Ended Approach: A New Proposal for Teaching Mathematics (available
from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics), a publication on
Japanese mathematical instruction and curriculum development. Participants
worked in grade-level collaborative groups to share experiences and
collaborate in implementing project materials. In addition, they attended
seminars with teachers of various grade levels to discuss local and
national mathematics standards, view videotapes of effective teaching
techniques, and discuss mathematics education research. Lastly,
participants developed lesson plans to pilot-test in the classroom.

During the following academic year, participants met monthly to review
institute activities and discuss issues that had arisen in using project
materials. The SIUC faculty member and master teachers visited participants
in their classrooms to teach demonstration lessons and observe lessons.
Participants also were encouraged to conduct family nights, in which
parents and students worked together on mathematics problems using the
techniques introduced by the project. Many participants developed take-home
kits for parents that contained additional activities and materials for
them to use with their children.

Participants attended a two-week institute during their second summer. They
continued their instructional training, worked together at revising lesson
plans that they had pilot-tested, and developed new lesson plans. The
three-year project was concluded in the summer of 1999 with a one-day
professional conference that focused on what was learned in the project.

IMPACT: Three hundred teachers participated. A faculty member from Northern
Kentucky University evaluated the project each of the first two years. The
project made changes in its design in response to the evaluator's
recommendations. Data were collected to assess changes in participants'
problem-solving skilIs, instructional techniques, and attitudes toward and
beliefs about mathematics using a comparison group of non-participants,
pre- and post-tests, classroom observations, participant interviews and
opinionnaires, and analyses of portfolios and lesson plans. Evaluations
indicate that teachers' instructional skills, attitudes, and beliefs about
mathematics significantly improved following their participation. Results
from the Illinois Goals Assessment Program (IGAP) showed that students of
teachers in the main district in the project showed significant achievement
gains, far above those predicted by the Illinois State Board of Education,
at each grade level tested. The project found that teachers need assistance
in creating new lesson plans and integrating project materials into their
textbook-dependent curricula. It also found that teachers need more time
to discuss content and instructional issues with each other during school
hours. The project attempted to raise awareness of this "Time for Teachers"
issue by facilitating discussions at professional conferences and widely
disseminating such information on the internet.

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618) 453-4244
Phone: (618) 453-4241 (office)
(618) 457-8903 (home)


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