The SERP-SFUSD partnership work in mathematics was made possible by the generous support of the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation.

The development of this website was made possible by a contribution from the Intel Foundation.

## Middle School Mathematics: "Important stuff!"

Where do students come face to face with the most important mathematics that any non-mathematician will need to master in order to successfully navigate in today's world? According to Phil Daro, it is in the middle grades. "We expect all students to take higher level mathematics courses in high school, but it's a mistake to think that more advanced mathematics is more important mathematics. It's not. The most important mathematics for most people who are not scientists or engineers is found in the middle grades.  It includes the completion of arithmetic as a system  the foundation for basic algebra), the basics of algebra itself, rates, percents, graphing, statistics, the use of formulas and linear functions —the stuff of middle school mathematics."

But in the middle grades students' mathematics performance begins a steady decline. In large cities, students who score "below basic" on the 4th grade assessment account for 26% of all students. But by 8th grade that percent has risen to 37%. And the percent of students in large cities who score proficient or advanced drops from 30% in 4th grade to 26% by 8th grade (Nation's Report Card, IES, 2011; www.nationsreportcard.gov). When SERP began its collaboration with the San Francisco Unified School District in 2006, the slump in math scores during the middle grades—particularly for African American and Hispanic students—was identified by the district as a focal problem. A SERP-SFUSD team has been exploring the nature of the problem and approaches to solution since then.

For many students the shift away from the additive reasoning that was characteristic of earlier grades mathematics to proportional reasoning is difficult to make (Moss,J., 2005 How Students Learn: Mathematics in the Classroom, NRC). Observations by the SERP-SFUSD team in classrooms revealed that students frequently use one of two strategies to deal with the more challenging math content: 1) they avoid reasoning about the mathematical content, looking instead for cues as to what mathematical procedure to perform, or 2) they reason through the problem, but they apply below grade level mathematics to find a solution. The partnership team of researchers and practitioners have explored strategies for addressing both challenges.

### About SERP's work with San Francisco Math Teachers

This Web site is a preliminary synthesis of the conversations we have had and the work we have done over the years. The work is ongoing; in particular the diagnostic lessons are in an active stage of development. We hope that others who work with middle school students will enjoy exploring the work we have done together. Please let us know by sending your comments to info@serpinstitute.org.

The topics listed to the left are a way to think of the kinds of work we did together. They contain examples of how middle school teachers can think about the mathematics we teach, videos of us teaching in San Francisco, and curriculum we wrote or recommend for a more thinking-oriented rigorous approach.

The group was led by Phil Daro, who also was instrumental in the process of developing the Common Core State Standards in mathematics. Joining Phil was Professor Alan Schoenfeld of the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Schoenfield and his graduate students were instrumental in moving this work forward.

The hallmark of SERP is the direct work with teachers and other school practitioners. A special thank you goes to the San Francisco Unified School District teachers and administrators who stayed with the work for years.This site provides access to the work to date, and will continue to be updated as the work moves forward.

 THE TEAM University of California, Berkeley San Francisco Unified School District Strategic Education Research Partnership Harold Asturias Marian Curell Tina Cheuk Evra Baldinger Jeanne D'Arcy Phil Daro Cynthia Coburn Rena Frantz Suzanne Donovan Hee-jeong Kim Kirstin Hernandez Matt Ellinger Nicole Louie Norman Mattox Tim Erickson Alan Schoenfeld Ho Nguyen Kirsten Kainz Kim Seashore Alison Oliver Yan Liu Niral Shah Jennifer Gallardo Payne Keith McDaniel Shauna Poong Karen Tran Carline Ryan Jennifer Silberman Marshall Sinkler Ricki Tai Elaine Tam