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FoM II Profile

Focus on Mathematics, Phase II: Learning Cultures for High Student Achievement


Focus on Mathematics (FoM) has, since 2003, been a project of NSF's Math and Science Partnership program that engaged Boston University, the Education Development Center, Inc., the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, and an array of Massachusetts public school districts.

Since its inception, FoM has sought to improve student achievement in mathematics through programs that provide teachers with solid content-based professional development sustained by 'mathematical learning communities' in which mathematicians, mathematics educators, K-12 administrators, and teachers work together to put mathematics at the core of mathematics education in grades 5-12.

FoM Phase II builds on past success while developing and disseminating new knowledge through a focused research study on the mathematical habits of mind teachers use in their professional lives.

FoM is deepening its impact from earlier efforts by focusing on the partnership's two highest need districts: Lawrence and Chelsea. Building on mathematical learning communities established in the earlier work, FoM Phase II is strengthening a corps of teacher leaders who will lead mathematics-focused professional development activities, including school-based study groups and partnership-wide seminars and summer institutes.

FoM is broadening its impact by increasing participation in the current districts, and engaging additional high need districts and a community college. FoM Phase II also anticipates inviting new higher education partners to join the partnership as contributing members of these mathematical learning communities.

Building on experience gained through the earlier work, FoM is creating pathways for teachers that begin with the development of strong mathematical habits of mind in immersion institutes, pass through learning communities in the schools, and lead to measurable change in teachers' classrooms and student achievement.

FoM is generating knowledge by developing a research program to investigate the effects of teacher interactions along these pathways, including effects on teaching and student achievement. As a tool for this research, the project is developing assessments to measure mathematical habits of mind for teaching, and is testing and refining these assessments through inter-rater reliability checks based on classroom videotape observations by mathematicians and educators. It is anticipated that the piloted instruments may be used and further developed by other programs with similar goals.

To disseminate knowledge gained through Phase II, FoM will hold a national conference in the spring of 2011. This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).