Identifying Effective Instructional Practices that Foster the Development of Algebraic Thinking in Elementary School



There is a critical need to better prepare all students for learning algebra. Part of this preparation involves developing a strong foundation for algebra in the elementary grades by building on students' informal intuitions about patterns, relationships and structure into more formalized ways of mathematical thinking. This project seeks to identify teaching practices that can be linked to students' early algebra learning in grades three, four and five. The goal of the project is to use assessment data and videos of classroom teaching in order to create a tool that can be used to document effective instructional practices. This observation tool can then be used to support teacher professional development in early algebra and research about how teachers' actions can be linked to students' learning.

The project aims to address two research questions. First, what profiles of instructional practice are associated with greater student performance in early algebra? Second, to what extent do these profiles of effective instructional practices vary by grade level? The primary product of the work is an early algebra observation protocol that will capture non-domain and non-grade level specific practices of effective teaching in combination with practices specific to early algebra. Multiple phases of testing and revision will be used to create the observation protocol. The observation protocol will also generate profiles of teacher practices that can be used to describe different models for effectively teaching early algebra. The project will also examine implications of their work for teacher preparation and professional development.




Ana Stephens


Active through May 31, 2021

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Ana Stephens