UCLA, LAUSD Partnership Honors Children’s Mathematical Thinking

1,000 teachers take part in celebration of UCLA Mathematics Project, LAUSD Department of Instruction Cognitively Guided Instruction Action Research Project.

What does 1,000 look like?  Well, that depends. Are you talking about 1,000 pieces of candy? 1,000 cars? 1,000 elephants? Are they in small groups or spread out in a line? And how would you count them?  By ones, or 10s, or maybe by groups of 100? Is there just one way to count them, or are there are a lot of ways to think about 1,000?

Well, if you want to see what 1,000 – plus mathematics teachers look like, and explore different ways to count them, and maybe begin to understand what they are doing, a good place to start would be at the celebration of the partnership between the Los Angeles Unified School District and the UCLA Mathematics Project in support of the Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) Action Research Project, which will take place on Saturday, Jan. 25 at UCLA.   

More than 1,000 teachers and other educators will gather that morning to honor the mathematical thinking of children and recognize a partnership that is strengthening teaching and learning in mathematics across the LAUSD.

Cognitively Guided Instruction is an approach to learning and teaching mathematics that honors the robust mathematical understandings each child brings to school. Over the past four years, the UCLA Mathematics Project and the LAUSD Department of Instruction have partnered to support the use of Cognitively Guided Instruction to further student learning in mathematics.

“What’s so powerful about CGI is it puts children and their math ideas at the center of teaching and redefines math teaching as truly student-led,” said Angela Chan Turrou, a senior researcher at UCLA who works on the project.  “Through CGI, teachers see children differently – as the bearers of great ideas – and they see their role as teacher differently – as a facilitator of a community that learns with and from each other.” 

Growing from ten schools in the project’s first year, in its fourth year the CGI partnership supports 210 elementary schools and early education centers across LAUSD in an effort to strengthen teaching and learning in mathematics.  The project engages teachers in ongoing learning opportunities at participating school sites and in professional development sessions and workshops throughout the year.  More than 5,000 LAUSD educators participating in professional development in CGI are deepening their knowledge of children’s thinking, mathematics content, and student-centered instructional practices. As a result, thousands of students are developing positive math identities as they learn about mathematics and reasoning in ways that make sense to them and matter in their lives. 

“The LA Unified/UCLA Mathematics Project CGI Action Research Project is changing the way that teachers teach and students learn math. All students and teachers are honored for what they bring to the study of math, and are capable of being mathematicians, so that math makes sense,” said Lisa Ward, who recently retired as LAUSD math coordinator and has helped to lead the CGI effort since its inception. “When students work collaboratively to discuss how they solved math tasks, then they will be better prepared to be active, participatory citizens in the world. This work is about equity, access and empowerment in mathematics.”

“The work we do depends upon the relationships we have formed and nurture within our community of teacher leaders, as well as the relationships and trust we intentionally build with the teachers we serve,” adds Janene Ward, associate director of the UCLA Mathematics Project.

“We could not engage in and sustain this work without the commitment, expertise, and passion from our growing network of more than 150 CGI Teacher Leaders and the thousands of teachers who take what they have learned back to their classrooms and schools.” 

On Saturday, UCLA Education Professor Megan Franke, who leads the CGI effort, will discuss the research behind CGI in a morning keynote presentation. Her comments will focus on the why, what and how of Cognitively Guided Instruction and explore how paying attention to children’s mathematical thinking can help educators to engage students in learning that draws on the resources each student brings to the process. 

“CGI is not mine to define and it is constantly evolving.  As we mark the fourth year of this effort, it is tremendously important that we take time to think and talk about our work as a community and challenge each other as we move forward,” Franke said. 

Following Franke’s keynote presentation, in sessions ranging from those that challenge deficit views of students’ abilities to those exploring neurodiversity and CGI, teachers will fan out across the UCLA campus to take part in a daylong series of workshops designed to further their knowledge of CGI and enhance their skills. 

“Teaching from a CGI perspective is hard work – there are research-based ideas about problem types and problem-solving strategies and ideas about how to engage students in a variety of ways,” Turrou said. 

“But at the end of the day, it’s about the kids and how to transform how they see themselves and see math.  There is no script. It’s just teaching in a way that creates space for children to share and build upon their math ideas in increasingly complex ways so that they develop life-long skills and identities.”

Above: UCLA Professor of Education Megan Franke

Photo by Jennifer Young