Exemplary Mathematics Educators for High Need Schools

Exemplary Mathematics Educators for High Need Schools

Project Summary

This project supported exemplary mathematics teachers in high need school districts. This project features university level mathematics educators and mathematicians working together, giving attention to content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge and expertise in mentoring as well as the development of a professional community, while supporting secondary mathematics teachers. The project has been broadly successful: new mathematics teachers enter and stay, teachers with weak content knowledge improve dramatically, teacher-leaders emerge, and our experience provides lessons that may be helpful for other programs with similar concerns.


This study’s findings confirm results from previous research but also offers an alternative model of professional development, suggesting that a collective group of successful teachers with various skills and expertise coupled with a professional learning community can provide greater support to any single teacher than the traditional model of professional development.

Measurement & Metrics

For seven years, the professional learning community aimed to support eight Teaching Fellows (beginning teachers), who entered our program after finishing their Bachelor’s degree in mathematics or mathematics education, and eight Master Teachers (experienced teachers), who had their Master’s degrees. We attempted to create a learning community centered around secondary mathematics teaching where the teachers in our program, who were not all in the same school or district, would come together as mathematics teachers pursuing professional growth. The data sources are a) fieldnotes of practice seminars b) individual and focus group interviews, c) surveys, and d) observations of beginning teachers. Data generated was used to examine participants’ perceptions and constructions of their understandings regarding the effectiveness of a sustained professional learning community scaffold and teacher leaders in their development and understanding of content and pedagogical knowledge.

Key Findings

  • Seven of the Teaching Fellows have continued teaching in high need school districts, and two have already been promoted to Chair of their school mathematics department. One reports that she would not have stayed in teaching without this program. Their teaching has developed, and we can see clear signs of strong mathematics knowledge for teaching.
    • Seven of the eight Master Teachers remained for five years and continue to teach in high-need school districts. One of the teachers who remained has since become his school’s Vice Principal, another her school’s mathematics department Chair. Like the beginning teachers, the experienced teachers show an increased mathematics knowledge for teaching.
      • The Master Teachers reported developing and providing professional development activities for other teachers, conducting STEM research, conducing other educational research, serving on a curriculum committee, serving on a textbook adoption committee, and serving on other school or district committees. Most Master Teachers reported working with parents, school boards, or others outside of the school and participating in peer mentoring activities.
        • Many of the teachers reported that our program gave them content-based professional development that they did not receive in their schools, allowing them to increase their connection with mathematics and maintain their enthusiasm for it.
          • The participants reported high satisfaction with the program, particularly highlighting the mentoring by mathematicians as a positive experience.

          Principal Investigators

          In Collaboration with Math for America Boston and Education Development Center.

          Project Support

          The National Science Foundation funded this project that supported the activities reported in this manuscript (Grant#1339601). The opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not reflect the opinions of the National Science Foundation.


          Photo of project leaders

          Left to right: Juliana Belding, co-PI; CK Cheung, co-PI; Lillie R. Albert, PI; Solomon Friedberg, co-PI.

          Facts & Figures


          number of students impacted by study


          teachers participated in the study


          length of study (in years)