Scaling Up SimCalc:
Professional Development for Integrating Technology
to Teach More Complex Mathematics (Phase I)


Principal Investigators
Jeremy Roschelle, SRI International
Jim Kaput, UMass Dartmouth (Co-PI)
Deborah Tatar, Viriginia Tech (Co-PI)

National Science Foundation
2002 - 2004
Award: REC-0228515


Responding to the widely held concern that U.S. students are less likely than their international counterparts to master advanced mathematics, an interdisciplinary team from three complementary research institutions proposes to investigate (a) the capability of technology to support learning of complex and conceptually difficult mathematics if (b) a comprehensive approach to professional development is available to teachers. Specifically, this implementation research proposal focuses on exploring the robustness of replacement-unit teacher professional development for enabling teachers to develop middle school students' mathematical proficiency with the concept of “rate of change” using innovative curriculum and technology. The particular innovation to be used, SimCalc, is one instance of the class of mathematics learning technologies that have shown much promise in enabling students to master complex and conceptually difficult mathematics earlier in the curricular sequence. The planned teacher professional development focuses on the mathematical content, how students learn, and integrating technology into classroom practices. There is empirical evidence to support scaling up this intervention, but as yet no experimental support for robustness of the innovation when implemented by teachers who vary in representative ways.

In the proposed Phase I, the team will pilot our Phase II design. In so doing, we will develop and test organizational resources required for a Phase II implementation study. We will also refine the methodological features of our Phase II design, including developing an instrument for measuring growth of the “rate of change” concept that builds on items and tasks from national reference examinations. We will further identify critical variables and conditions by using NAEP and Texas data.

In a subsequent Phase II proposal, the team would undertake a controlled experiment using random assignment. The team would select a group of Texas middle school teachers using a random selection approach wherein the probabilities of selection have been calculated to obtain a sample that exhibits suitable variation among variables that we believe may be important to the outcome. The researchers would then measure outcomes with content assessment developed in Phase I, and established measures of teachers' beliefs, classroom practices, and comfort with technology integration. Results would speak to the critical policy questions about the degree to which research can support changes to national standards, curricula, and assessments to incorporate more complex mathematics earlier in the curricular sequence. Results would also speak immediately to a wide array of implementation projects, such as Math/Science Partnerships and curriculum revision projects. Many of these projects would like to incorporate technology-based instructional materials but are unsure whether implementation is robust across a range of teachers.

This is a subcontract under SRI's Scaling Up SimCalc Project funded by the National Science Foundation, Grant #REC-0228515.