SOE News

Spencer Foundation supports study of mathematics learning

A $300,000 grant from the Spencer Foundation will enable three School of Education faculty members to investigate students’ development as mathematics learners as they transition from middle school into high school mathematics. The three investigators ─ Jill Hamm, associate professor of educational psychology; Carol Malloy, associate professor of mathematics education, and Judith Meece, professor of educational psychology ─ bring expertise in mathematics education and developmental and educational psychology.

In the two-year study, they will explore how cognitive and social processes in early adolescents’ mathematical understanding unfold as students begin the study of high school mathematics.

The study builds on earlier work, funded by a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, in which the three investigators studied 75 middle school classrooms and hundreds of middle school students over three years, looking for patterns in the way the students grew in their conceptual understanding and achievement in mathematics during sixth, seventh and eighth grades. In the new study, they will select 150 students whom they already observed in sixth, seventh and eighth grades and follow these same students as they take ninth-grade algebra.

The goal is to discover if they can predict how well these students will perform in algebra, a course that every student must pass in order to graduate from high school or to move on to the study of advanced mathematics. Ultimately they hope to find ways to help middle and high school mathematics teachers provide classroom instruction, manage social dynamics and motivate their students in order to increase student success.