Math-in-CTE Research Study: Building Academic Skills in Context - Testing the Value of Enhanced Math Learning in CTE

Project Overview

Principal Investigators

James R. Stone III
Corinne Alfeld
Research and Evaluation Specialist
National Institute for Workforce and Learning, FHI 360
Donna Pearson
Associate Director
Morgan V. Lewis

The NRCCTE’s Math-in-CTE research study used group randomization techniques to test a model of curriculum integration to improve CTE students’ mathematical understanding. The study included nearly 3,000 students and 200 teachers in nine states. Each of the CTE teachers participating in the study was paired with a math teacher from his or her local school, district, or community. The CTE-math teacher teams were brought together for extended professional development—10 days over the course of an academic year—to learn the process and pedagogy of the Math-in-CTE model. The teams began the process by examining their CTE curricula in order to identify embedded mathematical concepts, a process known as curriculum mapping. Utilizing the Math-in-CTE model’s seven-element pedagogic framework (PDF), they then developed math-enhanced CTE lessons to enhance the mathematics that existed within the occupational curricula. The CTE teachers scheduled and taught each of the math-enhanced lessons throughout the year.

After one year of exposure to the math-enhanced lessons, students in the classrooms of teachers trained in the Math-in-CTE model performed significantly better on standardized math tests and community college math placement tests than students who received the regular CTE curriculum. Moreover, students improved their math skills without losing the important technical skills needed for college and career readiness.

As part of its evaluation of the model’s implementation, the NRCCTE analyzed data from focus groups, surveys, observations, and teaching reports to determine what worked and what didn’t. These analyses led to the development of the model’s five core principles (PDF).

The results of the Math-in-CTE study were published in the American Educational Research Journal:

Stone, J. R. III, Alfeld, C., & Pearson, D. (2008). Rigor and relevance: Testing a model of enhanced math learning in career and technical education. American Educational Research Journal, 45(3), 767-795. Online access (subscription required).

Sustaining the Impact: Follow-Up of Teachers Who Participated in the Math-in-CTE Study

NRCCTE researchers examined whether teachers who participated in the original Math-in-CTE study would continue to use the pedagogic methods and lessons that had been developed for the study after it ended. The follow-up took place almost one year after the study concluded and included all three groups of teachers who had participated. Teachers were no longer actively involved in the Math-in-CTE professional development activities. The researchers found that almost 73% of the experimental CTE teachers continued to use the Math-in-CTE methods and materials, 66% of the math teachers used methods or examples from the model, and 27% of the control CTE teachers—who had not participated in the full Math-in-CTE professional development process—taught one or more of the lessons in the school year after the study ended. The experimental teachers (both CTE and math) spoke of the importance of the process behind the pedagogy and how the extended professional development was an essential part of their ability to teach the lessons they developed.

Download an overview of the Follow-Up to the Math-in-CTE Study (PDF)

Math-in-CTE Professional Development

The NRCCTE is moving the compelling results from this evidence-based research study into classroom practice by making Math-in-CTE readily available nationwide. Since first implemented in 2006, nearly 30 states and large school districts have improved the math skills of their CTE students using Math-in-CTE.

Learn how to participate on our Math-in-CTE Professional Development page.