Hybrid Professional Development to Enhance Teachers' Use of Bootstrap

February 2018

Integrating computing and mathematics appeals to various stakeholders for a variety of reasons. For the mathematics education community, computing offers an application of mathematics concepts that may strengthen teachers' and students' mathematical understanding; for the computer science (CS) education community, integration enables equitable access to computing education for all students; for state boards and districts, integration accommodates staffing and curricular constraints while targeting core learning objectives in multiple disciplines. Bootstrap is a nationally-deployed curriculum that integrates computer science and algebra. Bootstrap's current professional development (PD) program for math teachers is a 3-day in-person event which assumes that teachers are somewhat facile with algebraic functions.


Both Bootstrap and the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) have observed that some teachers have a weak command of functions. School districts would prefer a shorter in-person PD to reduce staffing costs and increase flexibility. This project will use a hybrid PD model to address both needs. Simultaneously, the project will research ways to tailor the online content to be effective for teachers who differ in their understanding of functions, goals for pursuing PD, and interest in mathematics, computing, math/CS integration, and student thinking. This Researcher-Practitioner Partnership team includes Bootstrap; 21PSTEM (specifically its team formerly of the Math Forum, which has expertise in on-line education); Brown University; Swarthmore College; the Oklahoma State Division of Secondary Mathematics and Computing Education and school districts in Texas. A total of 270 middle-school math teachers---a majority from rural areas or serving Native American or Hispanic students in our partnering regions---will participate in Bootstrap PD under this project. Assuming typical adoption rates, these teachers should reach 6,000 students within the project period alone. 

The team will use design-based research to develop and deploy a hybrid PD model and online support community for Bootstrap teachers, augment Bootstrap PD to reinforce teachers' understanding of algebraic functions, and conduct quasi-experimental studies to inform the design of different pathways through the PD. This project will study how to develop teachers' understanding of CS while also strengthening their math proficiency. In particular, the project will explore the possibilities for CS to improve teachers' understanding of algebraic functions. The project also will study ways in which teachers' interest can be made visible and useful in improving engagement and learning in integrated CS and mathematics PD. The results should apply to integrative programs beyond Bootstrap, suggesting strategies to tailor PD to serve more teachers.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Principal Investigator: Stephen Weimar

Professional and Content Development: Annie Fetter

Lead Organization: Brown University

Funding Source: National Science Foundation (NSF)

  • Start Date: February 1, 2018

  • Duration: 3 Years

  • Collaborative Award to 21PSTEM: $220,050

  • Fiscal Agent: 21PSTEM


Designing Professional Development to Foster Mastery and Interest for Integrating Computer Science into Mathematics Classes.

Roughly half of the US states have adopted K-12 Computer Science (CS) standards to date. Many districts, however, cannot afford standalone CS classes because they lack funding, available time in the curriculum, and/or a pool of qualified teachers to hire from. Integrating CS into existing courses (e.g., math, science, social studies) is a promising alternative. Rather than computer science being taught as an elective that not all students take, it could be taught more equitably in core courses. Moreover, districts could save resources through this strategy. Integration also showcases how computing is not inward-looking but can impact other disciplines. Unfortunately, very little research guides districts on how students learn CS in integrated contexts or how teachers gain confidence, interest, and skill to teach integrated computing content. This project, a partnership between Bootstrap and the Oklahoma Department of Secondary Education, is studying these questions in the context of integrating CS into Oklahoma's 8th and 9th grade math framework. Because these challenges to introducing CS to schooling are pervasive nationwide, this project can serve as a model for meeting these challenges. The project is also producing research findings on creating effective professional development for teachers new to CS and how these teachers develop their capacity for CS instruction.

This project builds on an existing Research-Practitioner Partnership (RPP) in Oklahoma that has been studying how to prepare math teachers to start integrating computing into their classes. This award expands this ongoing work to prepare teachers to integrate computing in more depth and more extensively, with 135 teachers. Using design research, results from educational psychology, and our findings to date, this project is (a) developing a 2-stage, hybrid professional development program that fosters teachers' confidence and interest in computing (including a variant specifically designed to support rural teachers), (b) adapting lessons from the state math framework to include standards-aligned computing tasks, (c) studying teachers' process of change in thinking about integration, and (d) beginning to study impacts on students. The mixed-methods research draws on surveys and longitudinal interviews with teachers, recordings of classrooms, samples of student work, and data on student assessments. This project is funded by the CS for All: Research and RPPs program.


Lead Organization: Brown University

Principal Investigator: Kathryn Fisler
Co-Principal Investigator: Shriram Krishnamurthi 

21PSTEM Subcontract Staff: 

Stephen Weimar

Annie Fetter


Brown University

Swarthmore College

Funding Source: National Science Foundation (NSF)

  • Start Date: January 1, 2021

  • Duration: 3 Years

  • Total Award: $999,511.00

  • Fiscal Agent: Brown University


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