Professional development overview

Learning Labs

Teachers participating in a professional development program conducted by the Early Mathematics Education Project take part in numerous learning labs over the course of an academic year.


PD 2008 077-croppedEach learning lab explores concepts of foundational mathematics. Topics include the five content strands identified by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in its most recent Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 2000).

  • number and operations
  • algebraic thinking
  • geometry and spatial sense
  • measurement
  • data analysis and probability

Process standards

Learning labs also emphasize the NCTM process standards. Hands-on activities:

  • help teachers to practice and adopt strategies that engage children in problem solving, reasoning, and proof;
  • show how to connect mathematical thinking to other areas of learning; and
  • challenge and engage adult learners while illustrating the important Big Ideas children should master.

Research lessons

PD 2007-042-croppedAt each learning lab, teachers learn an activity designed to help children explore our Big Ideas in ways tailored to their developmental level. Then teachers take the activity back to their class and teach it as a research lesson.

Implementing the lesson as an experiment helps teachers learn on several levels. The process requires them to:

  • assess how children react to the activity;
  • consider what parts of the activity must be refined for their students;
  • study their own teaching;
  • share experiences and questions about their implementation at the next workshop;
  • consider varied approaches by hearing about other teachers’ experiences; and
  • understand the Big Ideas from multiple perspectives.

Individualized, in-class coaching

Research consistently shows that ongoing support and reinforcement is a critical element of successful professional development. That’s why we provide participating teachers with intensive in-class observation and coaching. Missing in many professional development programs in the field, coaching is the bridge that connects teachers’ math knowledge to classroom practice.

Our coaches are veteran classroom teachers who undergo intensive training during the summer and a refresher session in the fall. This helps them to shift their focus from working with children to helping teachers build strengths and become more reflective about their own practice.

The coaching model

Coaching-001Coaches attend learning labs alongside teachers, then visit them in their classrooms to support them as they implement math lessons. Our coaching model follows a cycle with three phases: a planning conversation, observation of a lesson, and a reflecting conversation.

In this model, teachers:

  • set their own agenda, selecting a specific aspect of practice they want to improve through coaching;
  • agree in advance with their coaches on a plan for what the coach will be looking for and documenting during the observation; and
  • are often videotaped so they can review the tape with their coach and see their practice for themselves.

Video coaching

One of the most powerful tools for improvement is the ability to see and study your own performance. Coaches provide that insight by videotaping during observation. On video, they collect specific data on the focus area the teacher selected for improvement. The video provides immediate, specific feedback, with ample opportunity for both teacher and coach to reflect upon the lesson as a whole. Project participants who use video as part of their coaching credit it with a significant amount of their learning.

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Watch symposium presentations online

Visit Erikson On Demand for videos, presentations, and photo highlights from our International Symposia on Early Mathematics Education

2009 event

2010 event