Fort Mill Times

Math teachers in Fort Mill participate in national study on fractions

Fort Mill Middle School teacher Naomi Elkin leads her seventh grade students through a lesson on fractions while Research Coordinator Frank Sotelo films the class for a national teaching study.
Fort Mill Middle School teacher Naomi Elkin leads her seventh grade students through a lesson on fractions while Research Coordinator Frank Sotelo films the class for a national teaching study.

Researchers based in California were in Fort Mill last week filming seventh-grade math classes at Fort Mill Middle School.

LessonLab Research Institute, an independent educational research organization affiliated with Pearson Education, is finishing the first stage of a three-part study focusing on how teachers pass along knowledge to students. Naomi Elkin, a seventh-grade math teacher at Fort Mill Middle School, heard about the project last school year from a fellow teacher and went online to learn more about it.

Elkin, and math teachers Leslie Nivens and Jesse Schlicher, are participating in the LessonLab study.

"We went online and watched some videos of other teachers teaching and answered some questions about how you teach," Elkin said. "It took about three hours."

LessonLab has been traveling the country filming classes on fractions. The organization uses video clips of the classes in an online questionnaire for teachers who have registered with LessonLab to take part in the study and asks them to respond to the clips, according to Nicole Kersting, Ph.D., a research scientist with LessonLab, which developed the study.

"We're trying to capture and understand teacher knowledge," Kersting said. "We'll go back and look for the strategies used and will look for the relationship to their responses to the clips and how they teach."

Teachers participating with the video sessions test their students' knowledge of fractions before the lesson and then again after the lesson to see how effective their methods have been, Kersting said. The goal of the first phase of the study is to create a map of teachers' knowledge on fractions.

"Our hypothesis is that the answers we get may be reflective of their knowledge of teaching," Kersting said.

LessonLab plans to continue the next phases of the study through 2010.

The researchers are nearing the end of the first phase now. Next, they will focus on racial differences and proportions, Kersting said.

"I think I learned from the survey," Elkin said. "When you look at how other teachers do it, it makes you reflect on how you do it."

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