About SERP's work with San Francisco Math Teachers

This website is the product of a SERP collaboration with middle school mathematics teachers in the San Francisco Unified School District. Over the course of several years, Phil Daro (SERP Bay Area Math Director and co-author of the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics), Professor Alan Schoenfeld (U.C. Berkeley), and a team of teachers and graduate students met monthly to explore together why students were struggling with math in the middle grades, and what they could do to support student learning. We began with data that indicated students did not struggle with particular math topics, but rather with particular problem types: word problems.

Teachers conducted “think-alouds” with students, and found that many students began to solve problems without understanding the situation described, or the question being asked. They looked for signals that would indicate whether to subtract, multiply, or perform some other operation. The question our group pursued was this: how can we shift the culture of the mathematics classroom away from answer-getting and toward sense-making? We are not suggesting that getting answers is a bad goal, but when it is the only goal, genuine learning is undermined.

We set out to identify relatively small shifts in practice that could create relatively big shifts in behavior and expanded to include fully designed diagnostic lessons. We hope others will find these strategies of value. If you try these out in your own classrooms, please let us know what you think by sending your comments to info@serpinstitute.org.

San Francisco Unified School District

Marian Curell

Jeanne D’Arcy

Rena Frantz

Kirstin Hernandez

Norman Mattox

Ho Nguyen

Alison Oliver

Jennifer Gallardo Payne

Shauna Poong

Carline Ryan

Jennifer Silberman

Marshall Sinkler

Ricki Tai

Elaine Tam

University of California, Berkeley

Evra Baldinger

Cynthia Coburn

Hee-jeong Kim

Nicole Louie

Alan Schoenfeld

Kim Seashore

Niral Shah

Strategic Education Research Partnership

Harold Asturias

Tina Cheuk

Phil Daro

Suzanne Donovan

Matt Ellinger

Tim Erickson

Kirsten Kainz

Yan Liu

Keith McDaniel

Karen Tran

SERP has been supported to conduct this work by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.

Strategic Education Research Partnership  •  1100 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 1310  •  Washington, DC  20036

serpinstitute.org  •  info@serpinstitute.org   •  (202) 223-8555