Dean’s Fund to help faculty retool K-12 math instruction

Preparing mathematics teachers for equitable discourse practices

Some of the most impactful changes in the new K–12 mathematics reform have two GSE faculty members retooling curriculum methods in the Graduate Teacher Education Program (GTEP). Assistant Professor Torrey Kulow, GTEP secondary cohort leader, and Assistant Professor Amanda Sugimoto, GTEP elementary cohort leader, received a grant from the Dean’s Fund for Excellence to initiate a pilot project to help preservice teachers develop these new instructional skills.

Along with content standards, mathematics has new and evolving practice standards. Absent are the directive practices of 100 years ago. Children in math classes are now expected to be able to discuss and describe their approach to problem solving. Students now work in teams to come up with solutions, and even wrong answers can provide opportunity for discussion. In this scenario, the teacher is more coach and facilitator, rather than authority. Lessons are problem-based and discussion is student-centered. Putting communication in a more prominent role is a challenge for both classroom teachers and teacher educators.

The conundrum for classroom teachers is finding ways to help students engage who may have challenges with language or other disabilities. What instructional practices that support student communication work best in today’s multicultural classrooms? How do teachers facilitate equitable participation and discussion among student groups who are unique and diverse?

“There’s a groundswell [of support] from scholars, policy, and institutions,” said Sugimoto, who has a background in English as a second language. “It’s an exciting time for this type of work. Equity and math are not always related terms.”

Sugimoto and Kulow, along with a colleague, Visiting Assistant Professor Alisa Belliston from Brigham Young University, will use the grant to co-pilot an initial study. Their plan is to use the information collected in the study to apply for the National Science Foundation’s Discovery Research Grant in the fall of 2018. The challenge is to develop and refine effective instructional tasks that can be used by teacher educators to support preservice teachers in developing the necessary knowledge and skills to facilitate student participation in mathematical discussions.

“All of us have been really thoughtful about equity in our work with preservice teachers,” said Kulow. “Teachers have a variety of student differences in today’s classrooms, and they need to be able to include them in every lesson.”

This is one of a 4-part series of projects funded by the 2018 Dean’s Fund for Excellence. For more information or to contribute to the Dean’s Fund for Excellence, or any other GSE fund, please contact Scott Shlaes,, or call 503-725-4789.

NEXT: A big idea for our smallest community members: Equitable preschool for all

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