Disciplinary Studies: Math

Math faculty have varied research interests, including:

  • The development of students’ mathematical thinking
  • The study of equity and diversity in mathematics education
  • The study of learning to teach mathematics (Ghousseini)

Faculty have received extramural funding from the National Science Foundation, the Institute of Education Sciences, and the Spencer Foundation in support of their research, and their published research has received accolades from the field.

Faculty research on the development of students’ mathematical thinking has focused primarily in the areas of algebra, generalization, quantitative reasoning, and proof. In particular, faculty are interested in the learning processes that support and promote students’ algebraic reasoning in grades 3 through 10, their generalizing activities, and their proof-related activities. A goal of this research is to help guide the development of instructional practices, curricula, and professional development aimed at facilitating the development of students’ mathematical thinking.

Faculty research on equity and diversity focuses on the teaching and learning of mathematics related to the systemic marginalization of children from nondominant backgrounds who experience differential learning opportunities in mathematics classrooms. These inequitable experiences are a consequence, in part, of the disconnect between the mathematics that is privileged in school and the mathematics that children experience in their homes and communities. A goal of this research is to take into account the cultural and sociopolitical contexts in which children live and learn, and to support teachers as they incorporate these ideas into their instructional practices.

Faculty research on learning to teach mathematics seeks to understand how to prepare teachers to teach mathematics in ambitious and responsible ways. Ambitious mathematics teaching aims to help students to develop in-depth knowledge of subject matter and higher-order thinking skills. A goal of this research is to investigate the core practices and skills that are high leverage in nature and that can be generative of different kinds of knowledge and skills for novice and experienced mathematics teachers, and to identify the pedagogies of enactment that support learning in, from, and for practice.

Math education has a long and distinguished history at UW–Madison. Math education faculty members have directed major research programs (such as Cognitively Guided Instruction), and today there are more than half a dozen mathematics education research projects investigating a range of topics, including students’ learning of algebra, mathematical generalization, reasoning and proof, early childhood mathematics, mathematics teacher education and professional development, and mathematical cognition.

UW–Madison’s School of Education also served as the home for the U.S. Department of Education National Center for Research in Mathematics Education and Research in Mathematics and Science Education (1987–1995), the Department of Education National Center for Improving Student Learning and Achievement in Mathematics and Science (1995–2004), the National Science Foundation Diversity in Mathematics Education Center for Learning and Teaching (2001–2006), and the Institute of Education Sciences Postdoctoral Training Program in Mathematical Thinking, Learning, and Instruction (2009–2018).