CEMELA's research agenda will
- Expand the research base on Latinos and mathematics education by conducting studies in interdisciplinary teams that include Center Faculty and Fellows; and
- Increase understanding of the broader mathematics education community by disseminating research findings, providing innovative models and new course materials developed through CEMELA.
The research agenda for CEMELA addresses a pressing problem-- the mathematics education of low-income, Latino students. CEMELA's mathematics focus is on the "big ideas" that cut across the different strands. We view mathematics as an integrated body of knowledge. An example of a big idea that we plan to examine is proportional reasoning. The shift from additive to multiplicative thinking is particularly challenging to upper elementary and middle school students. Yet that transition is fundamental for advanced mathematics. We have experience exploring this transition with three different groups of "students:" children in grades 5-8; preservice elementary teachers; and parents. While proportional reasoning is complex, and therefore, difficult for students (including parents as adult learners) and teachers alike, its complexity is likely to increase when put in the context of two languages or a weaker academic second language.
CEMELA will conduct research in four areas: student learning; community and parents; teaching and teacher education; and policy. Taken together, these areas give the Center a holistic perspective on the teaching and learning of mathematics to Latino students. Below are some examples of possible questions that CEMELA will address in each of these areas:
- Student learning: Studies in this area address the interactions between language (students' native and second languages) and learning mathematics. For example:
- How do different proficiencies in Spanish and previous mathematics instruction in Spanish impact students' learning mathematics in English?
- How do immigrant students transition from learning mathematics in Spanish to learning mathematics in English?
- Community and parents: Studies in this area address the informal mathematical learning experiences in Latino families and communities and how these influence children's mathematics learning in school. For example:
- What is the nature of Latino family interactions in an academic mathematical context (e.g., helping with homework, especially in situations where the parents speak Spanish and their children may or may not speak Spanish)?
- What is the nature of mathematical activity in non-academic out-of-school contexts (e.g., during play, family gathering, in community clubs)?
- Teaching and teacher education: Studies in this area address teacher professional development and preservice teacher education. For example:
- What knowledge (e.g., second language acquisition), understandings, beliefs, and resources do teachers need in order to create and maintain high-quality learning environments for Latino mathematics learners?
- What dilemmas and challenges do teachers face that are particular to working with Latino/a student populations as they integrate two knowledge bases: mathematics teaching and content-based English as a second language for Latino/a students? How do teachers meet these challenges?
- Policy: Studies in this area address how school policy and organization support mathematics learning for this population. For example:
- How are English-language learners assessed and placed in mathematics courses (i.e., according to English proficiency, mathematics proficiency, a combination of these, or through little or no formal assessments)?
CEMELA-wide studies: We plan on undertaking CEMELA-wide studies, where the same research question will be investigated at the four sites. An example of a potential CEMELA-wide study is "What is the nature of standards-based mathematics instruction in schools with large low-income Latino populations?" This question can be broken down into smaller research questions such as, in a given school, how is standards-based mathematics being implemented with Latino students who are English-language learners (ELLs)? What supports and resources do teachers need to implement standards-based mathematics with Latino ELLs? What are Latino immigrant parents' views and understandings of standards-based mathematics instruction and how do these affect its implementation? We envision several school-based case studies addressing these questions and informed by the various perspectives represented in the Center. These case studies will be linked as part of CEMELA's research database that will be available to the wider research community.
CEMELA's research database: CEMELA will have a global research component that draws all the sites together in order to create a broad, multi-site perspective. Cases will be created to capture the different contexts, outlining the environmental, historical, and sociocultural circumstances pertaining to Latinos and mathematics education at each site. The cases will include such information as: 1) a detailed description of the history, demography, political, economic and educational policies (local, state) that govern schooling, particularly in mathematics, at each site; 2) the structure of schooling in each partnering district (e.g., the organization of mathematics education, curriculum, teacher professional development, teacher profiles, collaborations among university researchers, teachers, and community members); and 3) an outline of the dilemmas/challenges of each site (e.g., local politics, issues of coordination among various areas responsible for Latinos' mathematics learning). The four sites in CEMELA represent very different contexts of the Latino experience (borderlands, urban, agricultural, and rural). This database is significant in that it will make information available to the four sites (as well as to other researchers) and provide an overall picture of the circumstances affecting Latinos' mathematics learning.