Developing Mathematical Expertise in a Problem-Centered Classroom

Today’s standards for mathematics require teachers to help their students to develop the mathematical expertise or ‘habits of mind’ that will allow them to work with challenging tasks across mathematics domains. One way of developing this mathematical expertise is through the use of cognitively demanding tasks as a central lesson focus. Cognitively demanding tasks require students to think deeply, make sense of problems, productively struggle to create a solution, and then communicate their thinking and understanding in a public way.

Teachers will review strategies for developing students’ mathematical expertise through problem-centered classroom instruction. Participants will plan, implement, and critically reflect on instructional strategies essential to developing students’ expertise in math.

Developing Mathematical Expertise in a Problem Centered Classroom brings together the expertise of mathematics education leaders such as John Van de Walle, Mary K. Stein, and Phil Daro to discover and examine the teaching and learning benefits of focusing on a central challenging problem or set of problems within a classroom lesson. Problem-based lessons must be taught in a risk-taking supportive environment which challenges students to apply their mathematical understandings in a variety of situations. By participating in the course, teachers will learn how to plan these types of lessons and examine the instructional strategies that need to be implemented in order for maximum benefits to be gained.

This course is divided into the following modules:

  1. Defining Mathematical Expertise
  2. Skill Centered vs. Problem Centered Approach to Teaching Mathematics
  3. The Three Phases of a Problem Centered Lesson
  4. Planning and Implementing Your Problem Centered
  5. Putting it all Together: The Final Project





Demonstrating Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy


Designing Coherent Instruction


Using Questioning and Discussion Techniques


Engaging Students in Learning