EF+Math Program demonstrates promise of Inclusive R&D for improving mathematics learning outcomes for grades 3-8
Advanced Education Research
and Development Fund (AERDF)
March 30, 2023
Oakland, CA: The Advanced Education Research and Development Fund (AERDF) today announced the release of an insights report from its demonstration program, EF+Math, which suggests early signs of promise to improve mathematics learning for its priority populations, Black and Latinx students, and students of all races experiencing poverty. The insights are released as school systems across the country are seeking evidence and equity-driven pathways to support all students in reaching their full potential, especially on the heels of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Launched in 2019, EF+Math aims to help every student to know their innate abilities, know how to use them to take control of their own learning, and be given every opportunity to learn rigorous mathematics. EF+Math’s portfolio of ten R&D teams were brought together through the program’s Inclusive Research and Development (R&D) model, which places an intentional focus on equity throughout the process and centers educators and students as crucial partners from the start, working alongside researchers and developers throughout cycles of design and research. EF+Math points to partnership from its district partners, education leadership council (ELC) and R&D teams as essential to the program’s maturation.
Portfolio teams are currently in the third year of a five year Inclusive R&D cycle to design, build, pilot, and evaluate mathematics learning approaches and new research tools for students in grades 3-8. In EF+Math’s process, students are advancing their conceptual understanding and multi-step problem solving skills, building their identities as mathematical thinkers, and strengthening their executive function (EF) skills. EF skills are core capacities that allow individuals to manage their attention, thoughts, emotions, and behavior.
“We’re seeing evidence that suggests our model is leading to promising, implementable math approaches and new research tools that can improve math learning and EF skills. Early findings suggest the approaches our teams have developed are also supporting students in developing their identity as individuals who are capable of learning and making sense of mathematics, as well as their sense of belonging in math classrooms,” said Aubrey Francisco, EF+Math’s Executive Director. “While we are still early in our journey, I’m proud of the progress our community has made in both creating prototypes that can have that impact on students and shift influential individuals and organizations’ behaviors and actions to be more asset-based and equity-centered.”
“The initial vision for EF+Math began with a compelling research base rooted in learning science. The research reveals that the development of EF skills could be a promising core lever that can benefit students from lower income households more than those from higher income households. In other words, it could be an untapped approach to amplify the math brilliance in students who have been least served by the system,” said Dr. Melina Uncapher, founder of EF+Math and AERDF’s Chief of Research and Development. “What was most novel in this Inclusive R&D model we were pioneering was applying rapid cycle R&D in co-leadership with the research, education and developer sectors, which have traditionally operated in silos – all to produce new solutions that could make a difference in the lives of students.”
EF+Math’s progress contributes to the development of an AERDF organization that is now a place to prototype promising research-based innovations to identify the few that will transform PreK-12. EF+Math was launched just six months into a global pandemic, which heightened a need for the program to build a foundation of deep trust, respect and support given the trauma many members within its 200+community were experiencing.
“EF+Math’s approach is helping to bridge the learning gap that has long existed. Reading EF+Math’s Insights Report further demonstrates how this innovative approach is aiding in shifting mathematical thinking from traditional to a 21st century style learning,” said Pedro Rodriguez, a middle school math teacher with the New York City Department of Education and a member of EF+Math’s Educator Leadership Council. “EF+Math has helped to cement my own core beliefs on students’ education. Through council and co-design meetings, I now feel better prepared to champion these conversations to local leaders in NYC, especially in the Harlem and Washington Heights area.”
Luis Torres, a lead math teacher from Santa Ana, California added, “EF+Math is a truly holistic and inclusive approach that positions educators and students at the center of the design process. We are taking everything into consideration to ensure all students are able to have positive mathematical identities and design equitable and rigorous math tasks to support our most vulnerable students. It has helped students with their math identity and removes additional barriers. We implement adaptable executive function skills and strategies that meet the needs of my diverse students.”
EF+Math Report Insights
After many iterations of R&D in co-leadership with educators and students, EF+Math project teams have developed novel mathematics learning approaches and begun testing their scientific hypotheses about the relationship between EF and mathematics through pilot studies in classrooms across the country. Below are insights from the work as a whole portfolio based on teams’ early results. See the full report here.
- EF+Math approaches show promise for improving student learning.
- When educators and students are involved at every stage of the R&D process, learning approaches are more relevant to the classroom.
- Student mathematics learning outcomes are improved when executive function skills are strengthened alongside positive student beliefs.
- Effectively building students’ executive function skills during mathematics learning requires new instructional strategies, tools, and assessments.
- New student-centered tools and assessments emerge when diverse teams focus on designing for equity.
- Centering equity from the beginning leads to mindset shifts and a culture of equity and inclusion throughout the process.
These insights are intended to inspire researchers, educators and developers in their own work and to consider joining EF+Math as partners in its next phase of work or as part of a larger community shifting to Inclusive R&D processes.
EF+Math will share information about a webinar it plans to host soon that will engage education researchers, math educators, product developers and others interested in learning more about the report’s findings and their application for classrooms today. Sign up here to stay informed of EF+Math updates and updates about initiatives across AERDF.
About EF+Math and the Advanced Education Research and Development Fund (AERDF)
EF+Math is an advanced Inclusive R&D program that supports teams of educators, researchers, and developers to co-create rigorous math learning approaches that improve learning outcomes and affirm the brilliance of Black and Latinx students and students experiencing poverty. EF+Math was launched in 2019, and serves as a demonstration program for AERDF. AERDF is a national nonprofit R&D organization launched in 2021 that builds ambitious, inclusive three to five year programs with education practitioners, researchers and developers, aimed at tackling major and persistent teaching and learning challenges that disproportionately affect Black and Latino students and students of all races experiencing poverty in grades Pre-K-12. Each program builds on existing community-driven evidence and expertise as well as learning science to translate fundamental insights into usable knowledge, useful practices, equitable approaches and transformative tools for education practitioners and students. AERDF produced two additional programs in 2021 – Assessment for Good and Reading Reimagined. Additional programs are also under consideration, for this year and beyond.