SBIR Phase I: An embedded and in-context professional learning platform for math problem-solving instruction

Period of Performance: 01/01/2016 - 06/30/2016


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

8 Furbish Pond Lane Array
North Reading, MA 01864
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


This SBIR Phase I project proposes to research and develop a web-based prototype that provides teachers with individualized, interactive, and timely supports for improving students? problem-solving skills and math communication. Despite the expectations placed on math teachers by the Common Core State Standards, most of them are insufficiently prepared to teach students how to become effective problem solvers. Research shows that the largest struggle for teachers is not learning new strategies to teaching but actually implementing them in the classroom. This project addresses this challenge by offering professional development that is embedded and ongoing and sets the stage for educators to develop essential 21st Century skills including critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. These are essential job skills not only for educators but for the young minds they coach and mentor. Additionally, teachers who themselves approach problem solving with confidence and enthusiasm inspire students to do the same. This has great implications for how many students will continue to seek and enroll in STEM programs. The annual market for professional development is expected to grow to $1.8 to $2 billion dollars within 5 years just for math and science in K-12 schools, a significant market for this project to target. The proposed project will result in a prototype that works seamlessly with the existing student-facing peer-to-peer application, developed by the same company and already in the marketplace. In order to achieve this level of embedded instruction, the project intends to build a sophisticated recommendation engine that not only analyzes the teacher's user profile but also their actions in using the student-facing platform and responds with suggested pathways to improve their teaching. This is a unique approach to professional development, enabling educators to determine how to introduce, instruct, and assess problem-solving skills in a sustained manner. This study is anchored in National Council on Teachers of Mathematics' (NCTM) "Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All" and is designed to directly address three of their eight recommended essential practices and six of the specific recommended actions. The proposed project consists of a five-month iterative, formative evaluation-based development phase followed by a one-month pilot study where classroom teachers will evaluate the functional prototype.