Algebraic reasoning in middle school classrooms: A case study of standards-based reform and teacher inquiry in mathematics

Joseph David Trybulski, University of Pennsylvania


This qualitative study focused on the work of fifteen math teachers within a public suburban middle school as they prepared for and implemented a standards-based math curriculum using Connected Mathematics-2 in grades 7 and 8. As the principal of the school, I was both a participant and observer in the study. My research looked at teachers during their professional development activities as well as in their classrooms to document their work and conversations around mathematics through the use of field notes, video and audio recordings. Additional data were drawn from teacher journals, interviews, and my own reflective journal as the principal of the school. The study examined features of teacher professional development and instructional leadership intended to build capacity for more reflective teaching practices and to examine the conceptions of what constitutes algebraic reasoning. The most prominent of these activities, in terms of the study, was the initiation of a teacher-inquiry group that provided a forum for the math teachers to engage in dialogue about their teaching practices and student learning around algebra. This, in turn, provided a window into their perceptions of the reform curriculum and standards-based math instruction. The research addressed the following questions: (1) How did the introduction of a reform curriculum such as Connected Mathematics-2 influence the perceptions of teachers with regard to the teaching and learning of mathematics? (2) In what ways did a collaborative teacher inquiry group meeting to review algebra lessons, instructional strategies, and student work in the context of a standards-based reform facilitate changes in teacher pedagogy with regard to algebra? (3) What were the issues and opportunities for teacher professional growth addressed by a middle school principal in an effort to facilitate a standards-based reform in mathematics through the use of reflective practices and collaborative teacher-inquiry? The findings support the value of collaborative teacher-inquiry as an effective means of professional development, highlight the significance of inquiry-oriented instruction and enriched mathematical discourse in promoting algebraic reasoning, and illustrate the role of instructional leadership on the part of a principal and lead teacher in facilitating reflective practices in teacher professional development.

Subject Area

Mathematics education|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Trybulski, Joseph David, "Algebraic reasoning in middle school classrooms: A case study of standards-based reform and teacher inquiry in mathematics" (2007). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3287349.