CAREER: Designing and Enacting Mathematically Captivating Learning Experiences for High School Mathematics

This project explores how secondary mathematics teachers can plan and enact learning experiences that spur student curiosity, captivate students with complex mathematical content, and compel students to engage and persevere (referred to as "mathematically captivating learning experiences" or "MCLEs"). The study will examine how high school teachers can design lessons so that mathematical content itself is the source of student intrigue, pursuit, and passion. To do this, the content within mathematical lessons (both planned and enacted) is framed as mathematical stories and the felt tension between how information is revealed and withheld from students as the mathematical story unfolds is framed as its mathematical plot.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1652513
Funding Period: 
Wednesday, February 15, 2017 to Monday, January 31, 2022
Full Description: 

This design and development project explores how secondary mathematics teachers can plan and enact learning experiences that spur student curiosity, captivate students with complex mathematical content, and compel students to engage and persevere (referred to as "mathematically captivating learning experiences" or "MCLEs"). This study is important because of persistent disinterest by secondary students in mathematics in the United States. This study will examine how high school teachers can design lessons so that mathematical content itself is the source of student intrigue, pursuit, and passion. To do this, the content within mathematical lessons (both planned and enacted) is framed as mathematical stories and the felt tension between how information is revealed and withheld from students as the mathematical story unfolds is framed as its mathematical plot. The Mathematical Story Framework (Dietiker, 2013, 2015) foregrounds both the coherence (does the story make sense?) and aesthetic (does it stimulate anticipation for what is to come, and if so, how?) dimensions of mathematics lessons. The project will generate principles for lesson design usable by teachers in other settings and exemplar lessons that can be shared.

Specifically, this project draws from prior curriculum research and design to (a) develop a theory of teacher MCLE design and enactment with the Mathematical Story Framework, (b) increase the understanding(s) of the aesthetic nature of mathematics curriculum by both researchers and teachers, and (c) generate detailed MCLE exemplars that demonstrate curricular coherence, cognitive demand, and aesthetic dimensions of mathematical lessons. The project is grounded in a design-based research framework for education research. A team of experienced high school teachers will design and test MCLEs (four per teacher) with researchers through three year-long cycles. Prior to the first cycle, data will be collected (interview, observations) to record initial teacher curricular strategies regarding student dispositions toward mathematics. Then, a professional development experience will introduce the Mathematical Story Framework, along with other curricular frameworks to support the planning and enacting of lessons (i.e., cognitive demand and coherence). During the design cycles, videotaped observations and student aesthetic measures (surveys and interviews) for both MCLEs and a non-MCLEs (randomly selected to be the lesson before or after the MCLE) will be collected to enable comparison. Also, student dispositional measures, collected at the beginning and end of each cycle, will be used to learn whether and how student attitudes in mathematics change over time. Of the MCLEs designed and tested, a sample will be selected (based on aesthetic and mathematical differences) and developed into models, complete with the rationale for and description of aesthetic dimensions.

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