Research Rebecca Ambrose

Sharing Innovation in Mathematics Teaching and Learning
November 2013

UC Davis School of Education Associate Professor Rebecca Ambrose will collaborate with three of her doctoral students to make presentations at the Annual Meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (PME) held November 14-17, 2013.

Ambrose’s research focuses on innovative strategies for helping K-8 instructors teach mathematics more effectively. For instance, Ambrose shares what she has learned about the informal strategies children employ to help teachers differentiate and improve instruction in math. Another take-away from Ambrose’s research is that encouraging students to talk about math is critical to helping them gain a robust understanding of mathematical concepts. Fostering discourse among English Language Learners has become an emphasis with the advent of the Common Core Standards.

A former middle school math teacher, Ambrose has spent the last six years working within a small elementary school district serving an economically disadvantaged community with a high concentration of English Language Learners, providing professional development in mathematics to over 60 teachers. Using videotaped examples of children solving story problems, she helps teachers understand how they can build on the strategies that children are already using.

In her PME presentation “Math Talk: What Features Are Most Common?” Ambrose and fellow presenters, School of Education PhD alumna Heather Martin and PhD students Rachel Restani and Leslie Banes, will explain the elements of mathematical discussion they observed in third and fourth grade mathematics lessons. The team’s research shows that most teachers tended to encourage all children to engage in discussion of multiple solution strategies. Fewer teachers were able to elicit conceptual explanations and facilitate students’ making connections between the strategies being shared. In “Classroom Discussion Observation Instrument,” the team of researchers will share information on the tool they developed to provide consistent data from observations in over 20 classrooms.

In addition to researching students’ learning, Ambrose has assisted UC Davis Math Project director and doctoral student Julie Orosco, to explore how teachers can collaborate and observe their own and their colleagues’ practice to better serve the needs of their students. In “Using Self-Selected Video in Professional Development to Encourage Productive Design,” Orosco and Ambrose will share results of the efforts of 25 teachers who met monthly to collaboratively plan lessons with new content and then captured their implementation on video. In small groups, later, they viewed and discussed selected excerpts.

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