Research in Mathematics Education
Research in Mathematics Education (RME) was established in 2011 with an infrastructure grant from the Meadows Foundation. RME’s mission is to conduct high quality research in mathematics education, to cultivate positive change by educating teachers and administrators about evidence-based practices and systems, and to support mathematics achievement through academic growth and development of all students. Under the direction of Dr. Leanne Ketterlin-Geller, research funding has grown to over $11M in just 5 years and we have directly and indirectly impacted over 850 Texas school districts, more than 310,000 Texas teachers, and nearly 1 million students in Texas elementary and middle schools.
We are committed to engaging in research and outreach that will make a significant and lasting difference at the student, classroom, school, district, state, and national levels. RME supports mathematics education by (a) impacting students through projects involving teachers, parents, and policymakers, (b) empowering teachers and administrators through our conferences and through professional development opportunities, and (c) connecting researchers within the local, state, national, and international communities by sharing our research and intervention accomplishments.
RME impacts student mathematics achievement by working directly with teachers, parents, and policymakers to identify gaps in foundational mathematics understanding while supporting achievement at every level.
Research shows that students begin to struggle with algebra concepts as early as elementary school. The latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) also indicates that only 33 percent of 8th grade students perform at or above the proficient level in mathematics. Because of the importance of algebra to future success in high school, college, and careers, teachers need to identify students who are struggling with algebra early to ensure there is time for intervention.
Closing this gap in mathematics education remains critical, and RME is working with middle school teachers to develop resources to help address this gap. In addition to designing interventions for underperforming students, RME identified and developed universal screening, diagnostic, and progress-monitoring tools that target rational number operations and algebraic thinking. Our assessments have over an 85% accuracy at most grade levels in classifying students who are at risk. Given the strong correlation between the developed assessments and the state assessment, correctly identifying the large majority of students as struggling/not struggling is key. A case study on middle school teachers from one district also showed that teachers use the data from these assessments to intervene with their students and ensure their students’ success on state assessments.
Research has shown that children whose parents reported spending more time on mathematics-related activities in the home earned higher scores on a standardized test of early mathematics ability. RME is working internationally with the Jamaican Ministry of Education and the Inter-American Development Bank to give parents of children in first and second grades the tools to talk about math in the home, and improve the trajectory of their students’ achievement in these crucial early years. During the 2016 – 2017 academic year, over 800 parents will receive training that supports mathematical understanding through the use of mathematics games, culturally relevant books, and other grade-appropriate content focused on foundational number concepts. Initial feasibility studies conducted with parents and children show that parents can successfully use these materials to engage with their children and are likely to continue using them with their children at home.
Teachers’ instructional practices are dependent on systems-level characteristics, such as their administrators’ ability to support them. RME collaborates with policy makers and institutional leaders on large-scale projects with the hope of impacting school districts across Texas through expert testimony, technical assistance, and research and development support. Additionally, RME works with state agencies, private companies, and international organizations (e.g., World Bank, RTI International) by developing assessments that are utilized in Texas, more than forty states across the country, and across the globe. These assessments are provided to policymakers with data to help support teachers’ interpretations and use of data. It is important to note that the purpose of assessment development is not to measure student success directly, but instead to ensure that teachers, policymakers, and other stakeholders have appropriate assessments readily available for their purposes, and that they have the documentation needed to support their understanding of data in order to best facilitate student achievement. Data drives impact, and RME is systemically focused on how the value of data and assessments can lead the change needed to improve student achievement.