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Improving quality, equity and achievement in mathematics teaching and learning


February 3, 2012

By Eileen Thomas

Indigo Esmonde's award-winning research on understanding equity and diversity issues in mathematics education and using that understanding to structure more effective and equitable mathematics learning contexts has highlighted new ways to enact equity in the math classroom, and shows that social justice issues can make very effective entry-ways into mathematical discussions. Drawing primarily from sociocultural and cultural-historical theories of learning to frame her research, and from a variety of research methods, including ethnographic, discourse analysis and conversation analysis, and video interaction analysis, she studies mathematics learning in different contexts – in schools, family life, in stores, and at work – discerning how mathematics learning is connected to identity formation. This provides insight into the way people’s identities – including race, gender, and other social categories – affect and are affected by mathematics learning.

Her latest research project has just received funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation's Leaders Opportunities program. The infrastructure project will establish a laboratory that will address two important objectives: 1) the urgent issue of inequitable mathematics achievement in Canada, and 2) the pioneering of new research methods for studying multi-camera video data. The project will include development of a classroom enabled with multiple cameras and recording devices, as well as a collaborative video analysis space that will be made available to faculty and students at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) of the University of Toronto.

"I'm thrilled at the opportunity to develop cutting-edge research methods that will allow me to understand issues of equity and identity as they play out in classrooms and outside of school. I'm also very excited at the possibilities this lab space and technology will open for OISE graduate students," she said after learning of the award.

The Leaders Opportunity Fund (LOF) is designed to help universities attract and retain the very best of today’s and tomorrow’s researchers at a time of intense international competition. To this end, the LOF offers universities the opportunity to acquire infrastructure for their leading research faculty to undertake cutting-edge research and create competitive packages of research support in the form of infrastructure and a portion of the operating and maintenance costs from the CFI, coupled with direct research costs from partner organizations.