Engaging Students in High School Algebra: The Better Math Teaching Network
From 2016 to 2021, the Better Math Teaching Network (BMTN) aimed to transform high school mathematics teaching in New England. Researchers and teachers worked together to make high school Algebra I classes more student centered. Launched by researchers at the American Institutes for Research (AIR), with support from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation (NMEF), the network was grounded in the following five core principles:
1. Teachers are central to change. Teachers shape students’ learning experiences and beliefs about math. It is possible to create classrooms that are more strongly student centered— classrooms in which all students are actively and meaningfully engaged in learning math.
2. Student-centered teaching is complex and almost impossible to do in isolation. Teaching to maximize student engagement and understanding is complex. One way to deal with this complexity is for teachers to participate in structured, collaborative learning with other teachers and researchers.
3. Teaching can be continuously improved. Teaching is a craft to continuously hone. Teachers use practices daily that lend themselves to ongoing, incremental improvement. Continuous improvement methods from industry and healthcare hold promise for education.
4. Quick-cycle improvement methods provide opportunities to study and improve teaching. Many of the practices teachers want to improve on can be studied with quick-cycle research and development methods. Teachers can test and refine strategies within and across lessons, realizing improvements every few weeks, rather than waiting until summer break.
5. Research and practice should be seamlessly integrated. Too often, research and practice fail to inform each other. The BMTN included researchers and practitioners who worked arm-in-arm to test and refine improvement strategies in real classroom settings. Mutual respect fueled the work.