IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Making Contributions: IES-funded Research in Mathematics

From 2002 to 2013, the Institute of Education Sciences has funded scores of research grants with a focus on improving mathematics education. Many of the outcomes of that research have been captured in a new publication, Synthesis of IES-funded Research on Mathematics.  

This Synthesis was co-authored by Bethany Rittle-Johnson, of Vanderbilt University, and Nancy C. Jordan, of University of Delaware, two nationally recognized experts in the area of mathematics education research. The co-authors reviewed published research and organized the synthesis for the public to answer the overarching question—What have we learned? The short answer: A lot!

Here’s a look at the new Synthesis by the numbers:

 

200

Between 2002 and 2013, IES has funded almost 200 grants on mathematics learning and teaching through its two research centers—the National Center for Education Research (NCER) and National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER).

 

69

The co-authors synthesized what was learned from 69 IES-funded grants that had peer-reviewed publications published between January 1, 2002, and June 30, 2014. Grants that did not have peer-reviewed publications during that time frame were not included in this synthesis.

 

28

The Synthesis summarizes 28 contributions that IES grants have made in furthering our understanding of mathematics teaching and learning for students in kindergarten through high school. A summary of research findings is provided for each contribution, along with citations to the publications that will allow practitioners, policymakers, and researchers to access more information about the findings if they are interested.

 

2

The research contributions listed in the Synthesis are divided into two sections

  1. Improving Mathematics Learning in two areas: Whole numbers, operations, and word problem solving in elementary school, and fractions and algebra in the middle grades; and
  2. Development and Evaluation of Teacher Professional Development Approaches.

 

65%

The Synthesis cites research that shows that annual income is 65 percent higher among adults who have taken calculus in high school than among adults who have completed only basic mathematics. It is our hope that this Synthesis will spark efforts to improve American students’ math proficiency and increase their interest in taking higher level math.

 

So, where do we go from here? IES will continue to make significant contributions to mathematics education research and practice. In particular, the co-authors of the Synthesis recommend the following future directions for IES-funded research in mathematics:

  • Replication: Studies of promise or ones that demonstrate positive results must be replicated and extended to ensure that the findings can be reproduced in different educational settings, improve student achievement on measures used by teachers and schools, and lead to improvements that can be sustained over time;
  • Innovation: Future work should continue to innovate and test new strategies for improving mathematics achievement. Research should examine the features of interventions that most effectively build concepts and skills in mathematics topics and address whether observed gains can be transferred to other areas of mathematics learning; and
  • Context: Future research must continue to address what works for whom and under what conditions.

Although the Synthesis provides a broad overview of the contributions IES-funded research has made in mathematics education, it is not exhaustive. There are many more IES-funded studies that did not have published results by June 30, 2014. These studies are likely to produce additional findings on mathematics learning on these topics, as well as on topics not addressed in the Synthesis, such as mathematics learning in high school. Also, it should be noted that other centers and programs within IES conduct research and evaluation on mathematics that can be helpful to researchers, practitioners, and policymakers.

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When It’s Good to Talk in Class

Most people remember being told not to talk in class or risk a trip to the principal’s office or a note sent home. But researchers in the Reading for Understanding Research Initiative (RfU) want students to talk in class as a way to improve reading comprehension.

Five research teams in the RfU network have designed and tested new interventions intended to provide a strong foundation for reading comprehension in students from pre-kindergarten through high school. And promoting high quality language use and talk among students is a central feature of many of these interventions. The goal is to improve reading outcomes by building students’ understanding of rich syntax and academic language to express and evaluate complex ideas.

RfU researchers have conducted studies in 29 states and interventions developed by the RfU network have been tested for efficacy with over 30,000 students (see the chart to the right for more information on the grantees and the map below to see where they conducted research).

While findings from these studies are still forthcoming, some interventions already show promise toward improving reading for understanding and/or supporting skills. New assessments have been field-tested with over 300,000 students across the country and have documented their capacity to collect valid and useful information for teachers, schools, and researchers.

Support for informative and instructional talk by students was provided in a variety of ways across different academic areas, including social studies, science, and English language arts classes. Some teams developed new classroom activities to structure whole class discussion through student debate on current topics of interest. Using a program like 

Word Generation, students discuss a focal question to stimulate various opinions on current topics, such as ‘Should students be required to wear school uniforms?’ or ‘Are green technologies worth the investment?’  In other interventions, such as PACT, students spend time talking in pairs or small groups to reinforce a new concept or idea.

Teachers are understandably concerned about how to manage a classroom in which students are talking. As part of RfU, curricula and materials were created to help teachers to improve their skills in managing constructive student talk, and several teams also provided extensive professional development for teachers.

Attention to the importance of student talk was also evident in a computer-based assessment called GISA developed by ETS which uses a scenario-based approach. Rather than talking with their peers during the assessments, students interact with avatars on a task that simulates a realistic classroom-based task.

Using student talk to improve reading comprehension is just one of many supports that have been explored by the RfU teams in their extensive body of work over the past six years. The RfU teams provided an update on their research during an event in May. You can watch a webcast of the event until July 31, 2016.

Visit the IES website to see a detailed agenda for the May event and to learn more about the work of the Reading for Understanding Research Initiative. In addition to providing an overview of the work, the abstracts include links to RfU team websites and many of these have examples of their materials. Materials for the Word Generation and PACT interventions are available for free on their websites, and several other RfU grantees will be making their materials freely available in the coming year.

Written by Karen Douglas, project lead, Reading for Understanding Research Initiative, National Center for Education Research

 

 

IES at the APS Annual Convention

Every Memorial Day weekend, thousands of psychological scientists meet to discuss findings from current research at the Association for Psychological Sciences (APS) annual convention. Representatives and grantees from the two research centers at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) will participate in the 28th annual convention, sharing what we are learning about ways to improve education for all learners.

Erin Higgins, the program officer for Cognition and Student Learning program in the National Center for Education Research (NCER), will discuss current IES funding opportunities on Saturday, May 28, at 1 p.m. (Learn more about current IES funding opportunities.)  Dr. Higgins is also chairing a session on Sunday, May 29th at 1 p.m. focused on the role that graphs, diagrams, and other visual representations play in mathematics. This sessions features  NCER grantees Steven Franconeri, Jennifer Cromley, Martha Alibali, and James McClelland.

We want to extend our congratulations to one of our first IES grantees, Robert Bjork, who is delivering one of three APS James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award Addresses. These awards are given for a lifetime of outstanding contributions to the area of applied psychological research. The research of award recipients addresses a critical problem in society at large.

More information about which IES grantees are participating in the APS convention is available on the NCER website. If you're tweeting about IES funded work at the conference, please tag @IESResearch

Addressing Mental Health Needs in Schools, Pre-K to Grade 12

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and for educators, mental health is a serious issue. Students who are suffering with mental health issues will have a harder time learning and thriving in school.  

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has funded and supported work that seeks to identify how schools can support the 1 in 5 students in the United States who experience a mental health disorder such as disruptive behavior, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Below is a snapshot of some of that work.

Preschool

  • Jason Downer (University of Virginia) is developing the Learning to Objectively Observe Kids (LOOK) protocol to help prekindergarten teachers identify and understand children’s engagement in preschool and choose appropriate techniques to supports children’s self-regulation skills.

Elementary School

  • Golda Ginsburg (University of Connecticut) and Kelly Drake (Johns Hopkins University) are developing the CALM (Child Anxiety Learning Modules) protocol for elementary school nurses to work with children who have excessive anxiety.
  • Desiree Murray (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) is testing the Incredible Years Dina Dinosaur Treatment Program (IY-child) for helping early elementary school students with social-emotional and behavioral difficulties. IY-child is a small-group, mixed-age pullout program co-led by a clinical therapist and a school-based counselor. Students view brief video vignettes of same-age children in different situations where social-emotional skills and self-regulation are modeled. Students also participate in discussions facilitated by life-sized puppets, and engage in role-play practices and small group activities. Group leaders also provide individual consultation to teachers of participating students.
  • Gregory Fabiano (SUNY-Buffalo) is adapting the Coaching Our Acting Out Children: Heightening Essential Skills (COACHES) program for implementation in schools. This is a clinic-based program to help fathers of children with or at risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) get more involved and engaged in their child's school performance. 
  • Aaron Thompson (University of Missouri) is testing the Self-Monitoring Training and Regulation Strategy (STARS) intervention to see if it can improve behavior, social emotional learning skills, and academic performance for fifth grade students who engage in disruptive or otherwise challenging classroom behaviors.
  • Karen Bierman (Pennsylvania State University) is testing whether an intensive, individualized social skills training program, the Friendship Connections Program (FCP), can remediate the serious and chronic peer difficulties that 10–15 percent of elementary school students experience. Most of these students have or are at risk for emotional or behavioral disorders and exhibit social skill deficits (e.g., poor communication skills, inability to resolve conflict) that alienate peers. 

Middle School

High School

Policy

  • Sandra Chafouleas (University of Connecticut) is identifying current policies and national practice related to school-based behavioral assessment to determine whether current practice follows recommended best practice, and to develop policy recommendations for behavioral screening in schools. 

Written by Emily Doolittle, Team Lead for Social and Behavioral Research at IES, National Center for Education Research

Celebrating and Learning with the FPG Institute

The Franklin Porter Graham Child Development Institute, at the University of North Carolina, is celebrating its 50th year of conducting research, technical assistance, outreach, and service to shape the care and education of young children. This makes its annual symposium, May 24 and 25, 2016, a very special event. The symposium will focus on early care and education; race, ethnicity and cultural diversity; and children with disabilities and their families.

Representatives and grantees from the two research centers at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) will participate in the conference, sharing what we are learning about ways to improve education for all learners.

Dr. Joan McLaughlin, the commissioner of the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER), will be part of a plenary panel of funding organizations on Wednesday, May 25, at 2:45 p.m., which will focus on considerations for future research activities. (Learn more about current NCSER funding opportunities)

NCSER grantees who are participating in the sessions include Judith Carta, Patricia Snyder, and Samuel Odom.  Grantees who have received funding from the National Center for Education Research are also participating, including  Margaret (Peg) Burchinal and Donna Bryant.

Portions of the conference, Advancing Knowledge, Enhancing Lives: A Vision for Children and Families, are being live-streamed both days