Learning to Make Mathematical Connections

Investigator: Lindsey Richland

Funding: National Science Foundation Career Grant

Project Description

This project uses a novel approach to optimizing classroom opportunities for drawing connections during problem solving by bridging cognitive science models of comparative reasoning.

Research Design

* A series of experiments will test six ecologically-valid, practice-relevant teaching strategies for supporting students' learning to draw connections from instructional comparisons. These tested strategies emerge from an integration of coding typical classroom practices of comparison internationally and from cognitive scientific theory regarding what kinds of support could facilitate students' connected thinking by reducing processing demands and drawing attention to key relationships. 

  1. Using at least one well-known representation
  2. Making representations visible
  3. Making compared representations visible simultaneously
  4. Visually organizing the representations to highlight key connections
  5. Using gestures between connected representations
  6. Using visual imagery

* Upper elementary students will individually interact with videotaped classroom instruction to test the efficacy of each strategy.

* Research findings will be integrated into classes taught to pre-service teacher credential students (100+ per year), and small-scale evaluations will be conducted to determine optimal strategies for disseminating to new practitioners.

Anticipated Benefits

  • Many teacher credential candidates become teachers in schools with high proportions of English Language Learners and underrepresented students, meaning that this research could have systemic educational implications for all of these students.
  • Easily implementable strategies for improving student learning have the potential for broad impact on mathematics teaching in the United States by optimizing teachers' existing practices.