Algebra Learning For All (ALFA): Improving Achievement by Maintaining the Learning Potential of Rich Mathematics Problems

Investigator: Rossella Santagata (with PI James Stigler, University of California, Los Angeles)

Funding: Institute of Education Sciences

The Algebra Learning for All study developed and experimentally tested a video-based professional development (PD) program designed to help 6th grade teachers teach critical mathematics concepts that are key to improving student achievement.

The Third International Mathematics and Science Video Study (TIMSS) found that U.S. mathematics teachers present problems to students just as rich in learning potential as do teachers from higher achieving countries. But once they start to work through the problems in class, U.S. teachers convert them into step-by-step procedures or simply give the answer. As a result, American students never get to learn the concepts that underlie the procedures.

Drawing from these findings, this project had three specific goals:

  1. Improve teachers' knowledge of mathematical content for its use in the classroom (i.e., pedagogical content knowledge)

  2. Improve teachers' ability to teach critical mathematics standards and maintain high conceptual levels of mathematical reasoning

  3. Increase students' mathematical achievement

During the first year of implementation, 6th grade math teachers from five Title 1 middle schools were randomly assigned to the experimental and control conditions. Teachers assigned to the experimental group participated in approximately 40 hours of video-based professional development. During the second year of implementation, teachers who were assigned to the control group also were provided with PD. The two groups of teachers participated together in a second version of the video-based PD, focused on the same key content areas of the pre-algebra curriculum but including new examples of rich problems.

Click here for more information about the ALFA study.