STEM Academy Provides Ongoing Coaching to Teachers & Leaders

The STEM Academy for Science Teachers and Leaders is currently providing support to 43 teachers that participated in 90 hours of professional development this past summer. The ongoing support is in the form of one-on-one coaching and professional learning communities; an instructional coach meets with the teachers at least seven times during the academic year, approximately once a month from October – May.

This support for teachers focuses on further honing their use of the knowledge gained from the summer professional development. The Summer Academies focused on active learning, the scientific process standards, deepening content knowledge, and differentiation through social and emotional learning.

The coaching model includes a pre-conference, observation of a lesson, and post-conference. During the pre- and post-conference the coach follows a protocol with questions designed to support the teacher in reflecting on their instructional practices. Additionally, the coach engages the teacher in collegiate conversation to identify one to two areas for the teacher to focus on as they are planning and implementing lessons until the next coaching cycle.

I can hear [my coach’s] voice in my head saying ‘active learning’. It is a big focus in our conversations pre- and post-observation, for which I am grateful. [My coach] has a plethora of ideas and resources to offer when I’m stuck, and [my coach] pushes me *just* enough past my comfort zone that I know my skills are developing at a reasonable rate. – STEM Academy teacher

In addition to the one-on-one coaching cycle, teachers engage in a professional learning community focused on continued professional development from the summer. This gives the teachers an opportunity to spiral back to these topics and reiterate best practices.

The RME coaching team will continue providing ongoing support this spring and then teachers will return to SMU for 90 more hours of professional development in the summer of 2019, followed by one final year of coaching support during the 2019-2020 academic year.



STEM Academy Wraps Second Summer of Professional Development for DISD Teachers

The STEM Academy for Science Teachers and Leaders finished its second year of professional development during the months of June and July. Academy I brought in 9 new schools including H.P. Garcia, Harold W. Lang, Longfellow, Marsh, Greiner, Piedmont, J.L. Long and Hulcy middle schools, while Academy II saw the six original schools return for their second year of the professional development. Forty-three middle school science teachers designed grade-level appropriate STEM learning environments utilizing Project-based Learning, Maker-based Instruction, Informal Learning Spaces and also engaged in a deeper understanding of Social and Emotional Learning. Faculty for the Academy included professors from both the Simmons School of Education and the Lyle School of Engineering.

Significant relationships with community and corporate partners within the STEM field is a key component of this overall project, so that participants can foster and understand how a STEM education translates to career. This year’s partners included field trips with the Frontiers of Flight, the DART, and WalkSTEM. For more information, send an email to


STEM Academy for Science Teachers & Leaders Enters Second Year of Program

The STEM Academy for Science Teachers & Leaders has wrapped its first year of successful implementation. In the summer of 2017, 16 teachers and six leaders at six DISD middle schools participated in the first cohort which included an intensive 90-hour professional development course on STEM active learning techniques over a three-week period on SMU campus. The academy focused on project-based learning and maker-based instruction. During the 2017 – 2018 academic year SMU staff met with the teachers and leaders at regular intervals for a total of 85 coaching cycles that focused on honing the techniques learned at the academy and foster meaningful growth to increase inquiry-based instruction in the science classroom, and brainstorm additional ideas for instruction planning.

Summer 2018 will bring Cohort 2 onboard, while Cohort 1 from the previous year advances on. The teachers are able to earn graduate credit towards a Master’s degree from the Simmons School of Education as part of this collaboration. The academy and ongoing project is generously funded by the Texas Instruments Foundation and the O’Donnell Foundation.

New Mathematics Study to Help Students with Learning Disabilities

Statistics show that only 8% of students with learning disabilities meet or exceed mathematics proficiency standards by the eighth grade, according to the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

SMU researcher, Leanne Ketterlin-Geller – along with University of Missouri College of Education’s Erica Lembke and University of Texas’ Sarah Powell want to improve that statistic. A new $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs will help this research team train teachers on the best practices for algebra readiness to support students with learning disabilities.

Project STAIR (Supporting Teaching of Algebra: Individualization and Readiness) will evaluate a system of instructional practices for supporting the algebra readiness of middle school students with learning disabilities in mathematics. Team members include Professor Leanne Ketterlin-Geller from Southern Methodist University, Professor Erica Lembke from the University of Missouri and Assistant Professor Sarah Powell from the University of Texas at Austin.

The research teams will work with middle school mathematics teachers and their students in four regions: mid Missouri, St. Louis area, Dallas area, and the Austin area. During this four-year grant, professional development and coaching will be provided to teachers on both algebraic reasoning content for middle school students with learning disabilities and pedagogy for how to teach algebraic skills.

“This project will allow us to develop supports for teachers’ instructional practices in algebra, not only how they teach, but also deepen their own content knowledge in a way that allows them to impact all students in this critical area, but particularly students with learning disabilities. We’re eager to get started on this important work,” said Dr. Ketterlin-Geller.

For more information, contact Dr. Ketterlin-Geller at, or visit the project website.


2018 Impact Award Winners Announced at R2P Conference

Dr. Leanne Ketterlin Geller and Dr. Candace Walkington with the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education & Human Development jointly announced the 2018 Impact Award winners at the Research in Mathematics Education Research-to-Practice Conference, held on February 16, 2018.

Dr. Sharon Benson, Director of Mathematics and Advanced Academics at ESC Region 4 Education Service Center was awarded for her Impact in Leadership. She has engaged in many initiatives at the state level, including the Texas Algebra Readiness Initiative, the Commissioner’s Math Advisory Council as well as many assessment committees related to STAAR End-of-Course for Geometry and Algebra II. She is a contributing author for  multiple resources produced by ESC Region 4 to support K-12 mathematics, and she is currently engaged in the Mathematics and Science Partnership Program and Texas Mathematics Initiative to develop a cadre of teacher leaders in the state, who will be known as Mathematics Teacher Mentors.  Dr. Benson is committed to sharing her expertise with broad audiences as a regular presenter at numerous mathematics conferences including CAMT, NCSM, TASM, the Middle School Matters Institute, and the Annual Meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education. Dr. Benson is a tireless advocate for students and recognizes that our biggest assets in supporting students are supporting our teachers and leaders.

Trevelyn Everitt-Gyure was named the Impact in Teaching and Learning recipient. Trevelyn is an 8th grade math teacher at Navo Middle School in Aubrey, Texas. She has worked collaboratively with two researchers at SMU, Dr. Candace Walkington and Dr. Carole Hayata, on personalized problem-solving and the importance of mastering linear equations; content middle schoolers are challenged with, and an important indicator for high school success. Trevelyn is engaged in critical reflection on the research activities and integrates the ideas from the research study into her day-to-day teaching practice. She continuously contemplates what the research is really showing, what the larger body of research in mathematics education would suggest, and how these types of interventions are actually working in her classroom.


$2.5 million NSF Grant Awarded to RME Researchers

Southern Methodist University and the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development received a grant award from the National Science Foundation for over $2.5 million to conduct research and develop an assessment system comprised of two universal screening tools for grades K – 2. Dr. Leanne Ketterlin Geller, professor and Texas Instruments Endowed Chair, and Dr. Lindsey Perry, researcher and Simmons School 2016 Ph.D. graduate, are the Principal Investigator and Co-Principal Investigator, respectively. The four-year project (award number 172110), Measuring Early Mathematical Reasoning Skills: Developing Tests of Numeric Relational Reasoning and Spatial Reasoning, with an anticipated start date of September 15, 2017, employs an iterative research design for developing assessments, a process that Dr. Ketterlin-Geller has devoted much of her 20-year career to. “This is an opportunity to develop an assessment system can help teachers support students at the earliest, and arguably one of the most critical, phases of a child’s mathematical development. Few assessments are available to measure these critical concepts, and yet providing teachers with data to understand how a child processes these concepts can have a long-term impact on their success not only in advanced math like Algebra, but also success in STEM fields, such as chemistry, biology, geology and engineering.”

Critical to Early Learning, Long-term Impact

Despite increased commitments in the U.S. to improve achievement in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), students remain at a disadvantage all the way through high school and even entering college. Only 41 percent of students are prepared for college-level mathematics (ACT, 2016), and this clearly filters down to the elementary grades. According to the 2015 Mathematics National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) report, only 40 percent of fourth-grade students in the U.S. were classified as proficient or advanced, and these numbers have not improved between 2009 and 2015. In fact, the Geometry scale of the fourth-grade mathematics NAEP were significantly lower in 2015 than in 2009.

According to one study, early mathematics is a better and more powerful predictor of future learning, including reading and mathematics achievement, compared to early reading ability or other factors such as attention skills (Duncan et al., 2007). What’s more is that students’ early mathematics knowledge is a more powerful predictor of their future socioeconomic status (SES) at age 42 than their family’s SES as children (Ritchie & Bates, 2013). While early mathematics comprises numerous skills, number sense, the ability to work with numbers flexibly (Gersten & Chard, 1999), and spatial sense, the ability to understand the complexity of one’s environment (Clements, 1998) are consistently identified as two of the main components that should be emphasized in early mathematics standards and instruction (Clements, 2004; NCTM, 2000; National Research Council [NRC], 2001, 2009).

Simmons Researchers

Dr. Perry graduated from the Simmons School doctoral program in 2016, writing and presenting her dissertation specifically on these two mathematical constructs. “I’m passionate about this research because students who can reason spatially and relationally with numbers are better equipped for future mathematics courses, STEM degrees, and STEM careers. While these are very foundational and predictive constructs, these reasoning skills have typically not been emphasized at these grade levels, and universal screening tools focused on these topics do not yet exist. Since intervention in preschool and the early elementary grades can significantly improve mathematics achievement, it is critical that K-2 teachers have access to high-quality screening tools to help them with their intervention efforts. We feel that the Measures of Mathematical Reasoning Skills system can really make a difference for K-2 teachers as they prepare the next generation of STEM leaders.”

Universal screeners are assessments that are quick to administer for teachers and students, yet can provide significant insight into where a student is in there learning. Universal screeners allow teachers to identify students who are struggling or at-risk for struggling with a set of concepts and the level of intensity of support students need in order to be successful. Screeners are typically administered three times per year to monitor students’ progress.

Teachers should be able to collect reliable data about critical and predictive mathematical constructs in order to make valid and informed decisions about their students and their instruction. And that’s the ultimate goal of this project. Dr. Ketterlin Geller says, “Our work historically has been in support of teachers and leaders at the school and district levels. The difference is made in the classroom, and data from formative assessments such as these can provide teachers with meaningful information to guide their instruction. By helping teachers identify students who may be struggling early in the learning process, they can target their intervention efforts to support these students’ needs. Our intention is this early intervention will prevent later difficulties so students are on track for successful learning experiences in mathematics and beyond.”

Dr. Ketterlin-Geller is a professor, Texas Instruments Endowed Chair, and director of the Research in Mathematics Education Unit at SMU. She has served as principal investigator for numerous funded projects to design formative and summative assessment systems in mathematics, as well as instructional interventions to support students who are struggling. She is the lead developer for a system of algebra-readiness universal screeners and diagnostic assessments for all Texas public school children in grades 2-8. She has published articles and book chapters and has presented original research findings at local, national, and international conferences.

Dr. Perry is a former elementary and middle-school mathematics teacher and also worked at the Texas Education Agency (TEA) as a mathematics assessment specialist and as Assistant Director of Mathematics. She began collaborating with Dr. Ketterlin Geller on statewide assessment initiatives while at TEA and joined the doctoral program at the Simmons School in 2011. Dr. Perry assisted in the development of the Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA) Relational Reasoning and Spatial Reasoning measures, an international assessment, examining the validity of the interpretations for her dissertation research. She is currently a STEM Research & Assessment Coordinator at the Research in Mathematics Education unit.

Research in Mathematics Education (RME) at Southern Methodist University was established in 2011 with an infrastructure grant from the Meadows Foundation. RME’s mission is to conduct high-quality research in mathematics education, to cultivate positive change by educating teachers and administrators about evidence-based practices and systems, and to support mathematics achievement through academic growth and development of all students. Under the direction of Dr. Leanne Ketterlin-Geller, research funding has grown to over $11M in just five years, and the unit has directly and indirectly impacted over 850 Texas school districts, more than 310,000 Texas teachers, and nearly 1 million students in Texas elementary and middle schools.

2017 Research-to-Practice Conference Most Successful to Date

RME’s 2017 Research-to-Practice Conference, Conceptual Understanding in the Mathematics Classroom: Why it Matters concluded in February with 338 attendees, RME’s largest conference to date. Math teachers and leaders from all over North Texas were in attendance, and the RME team learned through a post-conference survey that:

  • 97 percent of respondents agreed the R2P conference was a valuable professional development experience.
  • 96 percent agreed that they are likely to incorporate what they learned from the conference into their teaching or coaching practice.
  • 96 percent agreed that the speakers delivered high-quality information.

The teachers in the survey also reported that they directly impact over 10,000 student annually, and that 85% plan to attend next year’s conference.

The RME conference would not be possible without the continued support of our generous funders, Istation, The Meadows Foundation, the Hoglund Foundation, and Reasoning Mind.


Summer Teaching Opportunity

SMU College Access Programs, Upward Bound/Upward Bound Math & Science has summer teaching opportunities for AP Math Instructors. The subjects include Pre-AP Algebra, Pre-AP Geometry, Pre-AP Calculus, AP Calculus & AP Statistics. The positions will teach classes for Upward Bound high school students to prepare for Math AP exams during Summer 2017, June 12 – July 20. The instruction times are typically 8:30 am to 2:30 pm, two days a week.

  • Bachelor’s degree in education and current Texas teaching certificate required
  • Secondary math teaching experience required
  • Experience as an AP teacher and completion of College Board AP workshops preferred. National Board Certification also preferred

Send CV or resume to:

Erica Fayson, Upward Bound Math/Science Program Director,

Dr. Edward Burger to Serve as Keynote for R2P 2017

RME is pleased to announce that we have confirmed Dr. Edward B. Burger as our keynote speaker for the 2017 Research-to-Practice Conference, Conceptual Understanding in the Mathematics Classroom: Why it Matters.

Dr. Edward Burger is President of Southwestern University as well as an educational and business consultant on thinking, innovation, and creativity. He has delivered over 700 addresses worldwide at venues including The Smithsonian Institution, Microsoft Corporation, The World Bank, The International Monetary Fund, the U.S. Department of the Interior, The New York Public Library, and the National Academy of Sciences. He is the author of over 70 research articles, books, and video series (starring in over 4,000 online videos). IN 2006, Reader’s Digest listed Burger in their annual “100 Best of America” as America’s Best Math Teacher. IN 2010 he was named winner of the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching – the largest prize in higher education teaching across all disciplines in the English speaking world. Also in 2010, he starred in a mathematics segment for NBC-TV on the Today Show; that appearance earned him a 2010 Telly Award. The Huffington Post named his one of their 2010 Game Changers: “HuffPost’s Game Changers salutes 100 innovators, visionaries, mavericks, and leaders who are reshaping their fields and changing the world.” In 2012, Microsoft Worldwide Education selected him as one of their “Global Heroes in Education.” In 2013, Burger was inducted as an inaugural Fellow of the American Mathematical Society. In 2014, Burger was elected to The Philosophical Society of Texas. Today he has a weekly, lively program on higher education and thinking produced by NPR’s Austin affiliate KUT. The series is aptly called Higher ED, and the episodes are available at or iTunes.

Dr. Ketterlin Geller supports Parent Math Training Pilot while in Jamaica

20160810_jamacia_team_8551 Dr. Ketterlin Geller has been living in Kingston, Jamaica with her family since August to support the first months of implementation of the Parent Math Training Pilot project in the island country. Dr. Ketterlin Geller has been meeting regularly with the coaches as they prepare to work with 800 families, managing educational supplies and logistics, connecting with data collectors as baseline data collection begins, as well as working closely with the Ministry of Education to ensure all aspects of the project meet anticipated goals, while sharing more information about the project to the public at lar20160810_jamacia_team_8630ge. Researcher Josh Geller has been actively involved with providing coaches with day-to-day support, communication, and training for the project.

Dr. Ketterlin Geller was recently interviewed on local morning show, CVM Sunrise, along with Dr. Tamika Benjamin, the national mathematics coordinator for the Jamaica Ministry of Education, and together they explained the purpose of the project, how and why it relates to the Program of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), and why the focus is on children in first and second grade.

The most recent information about the status of the project has come through the Jamaica Information System (JIS) via a public service announcement that will be shared on local television and radio stations as well as on social media to provide more detailed information as the project progresses. You can read the full article from JIS here.