Abolishing the phrase “I’m not a math person”

High Tech High Graduate School of Education (HTH) conducted this study as part of the Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative’s initial cycle of research. The team at HTH worked alongside fellow scholars, educators, and policymakers to investigate the impact of specific student-centered practices and then translate their findings for cross-sector audiences.

HTH’s final report, Abolishing the Phrase “I’m Not a Math Person,” represents their work over the past two years as they partnered with middle and high schools from four California districts to test, refine, and spread “high-leverage” practices that reframed mathematical struggle as learning and engaged students in collaborative problem-solving.

Research Questions
  • To understand what student-centered practices support mathematical agency and success for traditionally underserved students, and how those practices can be adapted for diverse contexts
  • To understand what factors/conditions support their effective implementation and adaptation.
Key Findings
  • Student-centered math classrooms that emphasize multiple strategies for solving
    problems and that encourage students to understand each other’s thinking become places where more students see themselves and others as being a “math person.”
  • Learning is not just about the “me”—it’s about the “we.” When students are supported to discuss the varied ways they arrive at solutions to math problems, they deepen their understanding of mathematics, increase their sense of belonging, and enhance their self-understanding as a “math person.”
  • Teachers are learners, too. When teachers learn with peers in a participatory manner focused on classroom improvement, they feel more confident and effective in using student-centered teaching methods in their classrooms.

This study reports on the work of the Mathematical Agency Improvement Community (MAIC)—a diverse network of K-12 schools in Southern California supported by the Center for Research on Equity and Innovation (CREI) at the High Tech High Graduate School of Education—who came together to work on the persistent problem of improving students’ mathematical agency and outcomes in middle and high school mathematics. Network teachers used an improvement science framework to test, adapt, refine, and spread student-centered math practices in their respective contexts.

Explore the Full Report and Change Package

How many times have you heard (or said), “I’m just not a math person?” Learn how researchers and educators are creating powerful student-centered learning opportunities that help students reject this statement and instead claim ownership over their math abilities. Dr. Daisy Sharrock and Dr. Stacey Caillier, both from the High Tech High Graduate School of Education, share some lessons learned as their study on mathematical agency comes to a close.

Download the Presentation

So how can we teach differently? How can we create learning cultures that nurture students’ inherent mathematical curiosity and encourage them to engage deeply with mathematical concepts? And what are we doing that gets in the way? Daisy Sharrock from High Tech High Graduate School of Education shared insights from the study with the Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative.

Read the Article

Curtis A. Taylor, a sixth-grade math and science teacher at High Tech Middle North County, shares insights from inside the classroom and what he and his colleague learned from their PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) cycles.

Read the Article

Final Report and Change Package

This study reports on the work of the Mathematical Agency Improvement Community (MAIC)—a diverse network of K-12 schools in Southern California supported by the Center for Research on Equity and Innovation (CREI) at the High Tech High Graduate School of Education—who came together to work on the persistent problem of improving students’ mathematical agency and outcomes in middle and high school mathematics. Network teachers used an improvement science framework to test, adapt, refine, and spread student-centered math practices in their respective contexts.

Explore the Full Report and Change Package

Webinar: Dive into the Findings

How many times have you heard (or said), “I’m just not a math person?” Learn how researchers and educators are creating powerful student-centered learning opportunities that help students reject this statement and instead claim ownership over their math abilities. Dr. Daisy Sharrock and Dr. Stacey Caillier, both from the High Tech High Graduate School of Education, share some lessons learned as their study on mathematical agency comes to a close.

Download the Presentation

Insights from the Study

So how can we teach differently? How can we create learning cultures that nurture students’ inherent mathematical curiosity and encourage them to engage deeply with mathematical concepts? And what are we doing that gets in the way? Daisy Sharrock from High Tech High Graduate School of Education shared insights from the study with the Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative.

Read the Article

Curtis A. Taylor, a sixth-grade math and science teacher at High Tech Middle North County, shares insights from inside the classroom and what he and his colleague learned from their PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) cycles.

Read the Article

Funding for this study provided by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and the Overdeck Family Foundation.

Learn more about the Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative at sclresearchcollab.org.

Bridging the worlds of research, practice, and policy, JFF’s Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative investigates student-centered approaches to improve outcomes for learners from all backgrounds, particularly those who have been marginalized or underserved by the current system. In our first cycle of funded research, our grantees looked at competency-based education, student agency, personalization, collaboration, and networked improvement communities.

Other Research Collaborative studies in this cycle include:

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