Connecting Elementary Mathematics Teaching to Real-World Issues (Collaborative Research: Thanheiser)

This project will engage students and teachers in rich, real-world math tasks; will support future teachers and mathematics educators in adapting, designing, and implementing similar tasks; and will provide a basis for further research on the most effective ways to design and implement real-world tasks in the mathematics classroom.

Full Description: 

There are long-standing calls to make mathematics more meaningful, relevant, and applicable both inside and outside of the K-12 classroom. In particular, there is a growing recognition that mathematics is a valuable tool for helping students understand important real-world issues that affect their lives and society. Further, mathematics can support students in becoming mathematically literate and engaged democratic citizens. Despite the increased interest in connecting mathematics to real-world issues in the classroom, many teachers feel unprepared to do so. This project will engage students and teachers in rich, real-world math tasks; will support future teachers and mathematics educators in adapting, designing, and implementing similar tasks; and will provide a basis for further research on the most effective ways to design and implement real-world tasks in the mathematics classroom.

The three goals of the Connecting Elementary Mathematics to the World project are: (1) To explore how mathematics teachers adapt, design, and enact tasks that connect mathematics to the real world. We will study the teaching practices of the project team as they engage in this work in two summer camps and in elementary classrooms at two sites. (2) To develop a collection of exemplar tasks and rich records of practice for each task. These records of practice will detail the mathematical and real-world learning goals, background knowledge needed for both goals, common student responses, and videos or vignettes of the task in progress. A team of six teachers at two sites will be recruited to collaborate with the team throughout the project. Teachers will provide input and feedback on the design of, appropriateness of, and relevance of the tasks and the support materials needed to implement the real-world tasks. Initial tasks will be field tested with elementary students and additional tasks will be developed for subsequent week-long summer camps and for teaching in elementary classrooms. (3) To research both the development and enactment of these tasks. We will develop a theoretical framework for creating and implementing real-world tasks that can inform future practice and research in this area. The research products of this project will result in (a) an understanding of effective teaching and design practices for connecting mathematics to real-world issues, (b) a theoretical framework of how these practices are interconnected, and (c) how these practices differ from practices when teaching typical school mathematics tasks.

Project Materials

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