Improving Math Learning

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Improving Math Learning

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Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching (MKT)

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    Frank Wang

    This entry covers miscellaneous thoughts. Yesterday, I visited the library to browse journals, my weekly habit (if I manage to escape some meetings). I was shopping for potential journals for publishing our IML findings. I think many PI’s might want to publish their findings eventually. So if you know of good venues that might suite such a purpose, it will be nice to share information.

    I read Cognition and Instruction frequently. They usually publish comprehensive psychological studies. Because assessing math knowledge using conventional tests is quite reliable, the journal often has papers on math. For the LaGuardia IML project, I don’t think that we will have enough data to publish in this journal, but it is useful to see the style of present findings.

    One paper in the latest issue is “Investigating Links from Teacher Knowledge, to Classroom Practice, to Student Learning in the Instructional System of the Middle-School Mathematics Classroom.” You can find the manuscript at this site Let me quote the abstract

    “We also found a lack of correlations between teachers’ mathematical knowledge and critical aspects of instructional decision making. Curriculum and other learning resources (e.g., technology, student-student interactions) are clearly important factors for student learning in addition to, and in interaction with, teachers’ mathematical knowledge. Our results suggest that mathematics knowledge for teaching may have a nonlinear relationship with student learning, that those effects may be heavily mediated by other instructional factors”

    This is somehow inconsistent with what I have read earlier this year in the New York Times Magazine, in which Deborah Ball’s MKT was found to be highly predictive in students’ learning.

    Anyway, probably most of us are not surprised that educational research is like medical studies. One day x is good, then the next day x is bad. I think we all agree the conclusion of the Cognition and Instruction paper:

    “We thus repeat our caution about seeking simple, one-variable solutions to complex educational problems. It seems likely that educational improvement requires sophisticated understanding of the classroom instructional system and not just the quality of the inputs to that system.”

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