The elementary and early middle school years are a crucial time for students’ mathematical development. It is only by having a strong foundation in mathematical concepts and knowledge during their younger grades in school that students are prepared and equipped for the rigors of advanced mathematics courses such as calculus and statistics. I have a background in engineering and technology that allows me to position mathematics as an integral part of the overall curriculum as we work to prepare students for 21st century STEM-related fields.
My research focuses on developing models for both student mathematics enrichment and ways to support teachers as they develop their mathematics teaching practice. Starting with the belief that problem-solving and writing help to increase students’ mathematical understanding, I developed the Mathematics Mentoring Project. Gifted and high-ability 5th- and 6th-grade students receive monthly open-ended math that they solve and then submit written solutions for feedback. As part of this multi-year project, I am researching the specific components of students’ mathematical writing and characteristics that define high-quality mathematical writing.
My PhD dissertation work examined how Danish teachers interpret the mathematics communications competency and how those interpretations are enacted in classroom practice. Denmark implemented mathematics process standards in 2003 and teachers and students in Denmark have had over a decade of working with those standards. This study provides insight into factors influencing how teachers interpret and implement oral and written mathematical communication in their classrooms. Mathematical communication is used in the classroom as a tool for both supporting and assessing different forms of procedural and connectional understanding. Implications of this study include reframing the discussion regarding classroom mathematics instruction as a continuum of mathematics understanding rather than one that emphasizes rote memorization and algorithms versus an expectation to teach for understanding.
I am also interested in helping teachers develop and improve their own mathematics teaching practice. While some schools are able to have math specialists visit classrooms, model instruction, and co-teach lessons with the classroom teacher, for many schools this is not an option. With this in mind, I am also currently researching a video-conference-based mathematics co-teaching model to determine if this is a reasonable mathematics teaching technique for classrooms and to determine differences between traditionally co-taught lessons and lessons when one teacher is physically present in the classroom while the other teacher is participating by video-conference.