Looking at Student Work
Looking at Student Work

spacer Research
K is for King

Back to research

Collaboration amoung teachers

Math & Science

LASW with Families

Research on looking at student
work in mathematics and the sciences:

Two recent resources provide images of teachers of mathematics and sciences engaged in just such processes:

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Teachers and administrators sometimes assume that processes for looking at student work are more appropriate for language arts, humanities, and visual arts, and less so for mathematics and the sciences. This view may stem from traditional conceptions of mathematics and, perhaps less so, the sciences as disciplines in which problems are solved with one right answer. Viewed in this light, processes that call for description, questioning, and interpretation of student work seem to have little to offer.

But as newer math curricula feature open-ended problems, which may have more than one correct answer and be solved in a variety of ways, and as students are asked to reflect on and write about their understanding of mathematics, teachers will increasingly benefit from opportunities for structured, collaborative looking at student work with colleagues.

Another perceived obstacle to teachers of math engaging in protocols for looking at student work is the perceived "language gap" of mathematics. While most educated adults may feel competent to comment on an essay for English class or a social studies research project, fewer feel comfortable discussing math problems, especially for upper grades--problems they may not be able to solve themselves.

There is no doubt that all teachers benefit from opportunities to look at student work with others from their own discipline, but much can be learned when teachers across disciplines look together at student work--even if the work comes from courses in algebra or Italian.

At a recent Rounds at Project Zero, a monthly meeting of educators from all levels and disciplines, a middle school teacher presented student work from a math POW--Problem of the Week. In the discussion that followed, participants commented on both the inhibitions of non-mathematics teachers--the idea that math is "something else is so engrained"--and the need to "demystify mathematics, take if off the shelf, and make it more accessible to children and adults.

Rounds is an example of a place where educators have brought, if only recently, student work in math into a multidisciplinary setting. We need more research on both LASW within disciplines and across disciplines.