Responsive Math Teaching is an NSF-funded research project focused on improving mathematics instruction in a network of elementary schools through a research-practice partnership between Penn GSE and the School District of Philadelphia.

The project is developing tools and resources to help translate district instructional vision into classroom practice, including:

  • An instructional model that is responsive to both students’ developing understanding and to mathematical goals
  • Professional Development for teachers to experience, teach, and lead Responsive Math Teaching lessons
  • Mentoring for School-Based Math Lead Teachers in instructional coaching
Responsive Math Teaching Logo
University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education Logo

What is Responsive Math Teaching?


Responsive math teaching (RMT) is instruction where the teacher continuously elicits information about what students currently know and understand and responds in ways that move them forward in relation to developmental and grade-level mathematical goals. This occurs throughout the instructional cycle, which includes:

Responsive Math Teaching cycle, with a mathematical goal at the center, including plan; launch; facilitate productive struggle; make student thinking visible; connect to mathematical goal; build and expand; and reflect, consolidate, assess

  • Selecting and launching cognitively demanding tasks that are open to multiple entry points and solution strategies;
  • Engaging students in productive struggle, discourse, and collaboration;
  • Having students share strategies and defend their solutions;
  • Building connections and deeper and more sophisticated understanding of core concepts, strategies, and procedures;
  • Collecting formative assessment information to inform instruction.

Recognizing what students know and are able to do and leveraging that to move towards higher level reasoning and problem solving ensures equity and access to mathematics for all students. When the teacher responds simultaneously to student thinking and a mathematical goal, each and every student is recognized as a capable learner who can develop deep, meaningful, and flexible understandings.

Support for Instructional Leadership


School partnerships include monthly professional development, school-based support from a Penn GSE mentor, and strategic planning.


Professional Development

The professional development program begins with the Experience year in which participants experience RMT as learners to reflect on and develop new teaching practices. In the second year, participants engage in Lesson Study and peer coaching, collaboratively planning, teaching and reflecting on RMT with students and other teachers. Finally, in year three, participants develop their leadership skills, learning how to support other teachers to adopt and refine Responsive Mathematics Teaching practices.

Experience to Teach, Teach to Lead, Lead Apprentice, Lead School, Lead Network ArrowsExperience, Teach, Lead Description


School-Based Support


Set improvement goals, co-plan, enact in classroom, collect evidence, debrief

Lead teachers with one or more years of RMT experience work with a mentor from Penn GSE to develop their leadership capacity and hone their instructional support skills. Together with their mentor, math leads will support other teachers in the development of responsive math practices via modeling, co-teaching, and/or a series of peer coaching cycles that include goal-setting, co-planning, observation, evidence collection and debriefing. The goal is for math leads to develop the skills and confidence to lead this cycle and continue the process of supporting school-wide instructional improvement after their mentored year.





Building Sustainable Leadership Capacity

The phasing in of school involvement allows for expertise to grow across the network over time and for schools to serve as resources for one another.

NSF Funding brackets; Year 0: 2017-18, Year 1: 2018-19, Year 2: 2019-20, Year 3: 2020-21, Year 4: 2021-2022; Cohort 1: Anderson, Cassidy, Overbrook ES; Cohort 2: Gompers, Hamilton, Locke, Penn Alexander, Powel; Cohort 3; Cohort 4; Experience, Teach, Lead Apprentice, Lead School, Lead Network Arrows

Participants in a professional development activity.

Resources for Partners

Click for Resources
Instructional Model
Lesson Planning Guide
Lesson Planning Template
Reflective Coaching Tool

Participants in a professional development activity.


School District of Philadelphia Logo

We are partnering with elementary schools in Learning Network 2 of the School District of Philadelphia to provide school-based support for mathematics instructional leadership, strategic planning, and professional development.

Team & Contact


For inquiries and general information:


Principal Investigator
Caroline B. Ebby

Co-Principal Investigator
Caroline Watts 

Brittany Hess

Jennifer Valerio

Joy Anderson Davis

Lindsay Goldsmith-Markey

Lizzy Pecora


This project is funded by the National Science Foundation (DRK12 1813048)
National Science Foundation Logo