PSU professor awarded $500K to study math teaching tool
Author: Cristina Rojas, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Posted: November 1, 2018

A Portland State University math professor has received a portion of a $2 million grant to refine and study whether a new tool can help math teachers be more effective in the classroom.

The project, "Using Technology to Capture Classroom Interactions (UTCCI): The Design, Validation and Dissemination of a Formative Assessment of Instruction Tool for Diverse K-8 Mathematics Classrooms," is a collaboration between Eva Thanheiser, an associate professor in PSU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Kate Melhuish, an assistant math professor at Texas State University who received her Ph.D. in mathematics education from PSU; and the Teachers Development Group, a West Linn-based nonprofit whose mission is to improve students' math understanding and achievement through effective professional development. Amanda Sugimoto, an assistant professor in PSU's Graduate School of Education, is also involved.

Melhuish serves as the project's principal investigator. Thanheiser, as co-PI, received a $500,000 sub-award.

The Math Habits Tool, developed by Teachers Development Group and PSU researchers, seeks to establish a connection between specific teaching actions and students' levels of engagement and reasoning.

The tablet or computer-based tool can be used by a principal, supervisor or another teacher observing a classroom to collect real-time data about teacher-student and student-student interactions. For example, a teacher might prompt students to draw a visual to make sense of a math problem or have them talk with a partner to explain their reasoning.

"Information from using this tool can support teachers in analyzing their own practice,” Thanheiser said. "The goal is to have all students be engaged in learning.” 

The new grant will help the team design an access component to ensure all students have access to a high-quality math education; validate the tool to test whether it really measures what they think it does; and develop, pilot and refine professional development modules that will guide math educators and researchers in using the tool effectively.

The four-year grant was awarded by the Discovery Research K-12 Program of the National Science Foundation's Division of Research on Learning.