Identifying Expert Knowledge of Elementary Mathematics Specialists


Director: Donald Chambers
Funding: Exxon Education Foundation


The Exxon Education Foundation's K-3 Math Specialist program supports the development of K-3 math specialists and their use as a resource in the improvement of mathematics curricula and instruction in the primary grades.

The variety of roles of K-3 Mathematics Specialists has been documented but little has been said about the knowledge and skills they possess that make them effective in their work. This study is identifying that knowledge and those skills. Research questions include:

  1. What do K-3 math specialists say is the expert knowledge that enables them to perform their functions as specialists? Do specialists in different roles identify the same knowledge?
  2. What do directors of sites in the K-3 Math Specialists program say is the expert knowledge that enables the specialists in their project to perform mathematics specialist functions? Do directors' responses vary with the responsibilities of the specialists?
  3. What do K-3 teachers who receive support from K-3 Math Specialists say is the expert knowledge that enables the specialists to perform their functions? Do the teachers' responses vary with the responsibilities of the specialists?
  4. What do district directors of instruction say?
  5. What do persons who provide professional
    development experiences for the specialists say?
  6. Is there agreement in the expert knowledge K-3 Math Specialists need to perform similar functions? If so, what is that knowledge?
  7. Is there agreement on the expert knowledge K-3 Math Specialists need, regardless of function? If so, what is that knowledge?

The initial activity is a visit to each of three project sites-tentatively, Orlando, Fla; Tucson, Ariz.; and Ventura, Calif. The purpose of the site visits is to collect information to support the development of a pilot questionnaire. It is expected that participants may identify knowledge from a range of domains including mathematics, children's informal knowledge about mathematics, children's mathematics learning, mathematics teaching, assessing children's mathematical knowledge, mathematics curriculum, instructional technology, classroom management, current mathematics reforms, and adult learning.
Persons planning or considering developing and using K-3 Math Specialists in their districts could benefit from the description of expert knowledge identified in this study. The study could be especially valuable to sites considering an application to participate in the K-3 Math Specialist Program.