Martin Simon Receives $2 Million NSF Grant

Martin Simon, professor of mathematics education, has been awarded a $2 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation for research on students’ concept development and the design of an innovative approach to teaching rational number (e.g., fractions, ratio) in elementary schools. Simon’s co-investigators on the Measurement Approach to Rational Number (MARN) Project are Barbara Dougherty, professor, Iowa State University, and Zaur Berkaliev, assistant professor, Illinois Institute of Technology.

The MARN Project researchers will investigate learning in classes that used the successful Elkonin-Davydov (E-D) elementary mathematics curriculum developed in Russia. Based on this research, they will adapt principles of this curriculum for incorporation into U.S. elementary mathematics classrooms. The particular emphasis is on multiplication, division, fractions, and ratios. Such concepts are considered to be the capstone of elementary mathematics instruction but tend to be inadequately developed among students in the early grades in the U.S.

According to Simon, the E-D curriculum holds potential for U.S. educators because it “builds on concepts of measurement. Students don’t just learn about numbers, but about quantities and how quantities are measured by units. Thus, they develop a foundation for multiplicative relationships.”

The researchers will begin the project by analyzing videotaped lessons of a Hawaiian mathematics classroom that implemented an English version of the E-D curriculum. Using knowledge gained from the analysis, the researchers will embark on teaching experiments based on the measurement approach of the E-D curriculum with students in New York City, first in one-on-one settings and later in classroom settings. The lessons will be videotaped and analyzed, allowing the researchers to contribute to the growing body of literature on how students learn mathematical concepts.

Ultimately, the MARN project is designed to identify key concepts developed in the E-D curriculum, understand the learning processes involved, and develop a framework that builds on U.S. elementary students’ knowledge that can be successfully integrated into current U.S. mathematics curricula.