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

By High Tech High Graduate School of Education
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.

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