Advancing Equity and Strengthening Teaching through Elementary Mathematical  Modeling

What is Mathematical Modeling?

As stated in the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Modeling, “Real-world situations are not organized and labeled for analysis; formulating tractable models, representing such models, and analyzing them is appropriately a creative process [5] (p.60)” These real-world problems tend to be messy and require multiple math concepts, a creative approach to math, and involve a cyclical process of revising and analyzing the model. Mathematical modeling translates between the real world and mathematics in both directions, defining the real world as everything that has to do with nature, society, or culture, including everyday life, school, and university subjects, or scientific and scholarly disciplines different from mathematics.

Advancing Equity through Math Modeling

Mathematical modeling has the potential to “re-humanize” mathematics (Gutierrez, 2018) by providing students opportunities to make mathematical connections to themselves and the world around them. Mathematical Modeling promotes critical thinking and civic empathy as students work together to analyze and solve real world situations that are often complex and messy. Our project emphasizes a culturally responsive approach to math modeling instruction. By tapping into students’ funds of knowledge and diverse mathematical thinking; opening access to high cognitive demand activities with high supports; and promoting collaboration and collective action to solve problems, mathematical modeling provides an enriching space for students and their teachers to thrive.


Strengthening Teaching and Learning through Promoting Equitable Participation and Modeling Competencies

In the modeling process, we identified pivotal spaces for equity and for rigorous mathematics: a) In these spaces, teachers have to make decisions that could advance, or hinder equitable participation and diverse contributions. In other words, teachers have to make and enact instructional decisions that have consequences with respect to equity; b) They have the potential to foster the development of MM competencies which are central to modeling as content/practice standards (Kaiser, 2007; Maaβ, 2006; CCSSM, 2010). This is key given such cognitively demanding competencies are often under-emphasized in elementary settings serving historically marginalized children.

About the EQSTEMM Project

Students bring many mathematical assets to the classroom from their life experiences in their cultures and communities, particularly with respect to being able to model real-world situations in their everyday lives with mathematics. Many equity-related challenges in students' communities can be understood through the use of mathematics and specifically the use of mathematical modeling (the analysis of complex real-world situations using mathematical resources and tools). Supporting teachers to make use of mathematical modeling in the elementary classroom to advance issues of equity will require targeted teacher professional development (PD). Advancing Equity and Strengthening Teaching with Elementary Mathematical Modeling is a teacher PD project focused on strengthening K-5 teaching with mathematics modeling. Building on previous foundational work around mathematics modeling and equity, this project will bring together equity oriented teaching practices and mathematical modeling to design and research the impact of a blended PD program on teacher practice. The project will include video-enhanced reflection and online mentoring in addition to face-to-face components of PD. Using five pivotal spaces for elementary mathematics modeling as a framework, the project will explore the ways in which tools and structures that support practices aligned with pivotal spaces in mathematics modeling lessons can help teachers advance equitable participation and develop student competencies in mathematics modeling. The project will engage in cycles of design-based implementation research (DBIR) to study the relationships between features of the PD and changes in teacher practice, understandings, and dispositions.

The Discovery Research preK-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.


Award Abstract # 2010269, NSF# 2008997, 

NSF# 2010202, NSF# 2010178 



Collaborative Research: Advancing Equity and Strengthening Teaching with Elementary Mathematical Modeling