Welcome to the Poincaré Institute for Mathematics Education!

What is the Poincaré Institute?
The Poincaré Institute for Mathematics Education, a project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), led by three Arts & Sciences departments at Tufts University (Mathematics Department, Education Department, and Physics Department), in collaboration with TERC, and partner districts in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, seeks to transform and improve the teaching and learning of mathematics in middle school and the connections between the elementary, middle, and high school mathematics curricula.

The Poincaré Institute brings together expertise from mathematics, mathematics education, and physics to help teachers deepen and broaden their understanding of middle school mathematics. Rather than re-teach the mathematics that the teachers already know or offer a set of pre-packaged lessons, the Institute offers them a broad, unified framework to re-envision the mathematics they already teach. The mathematical focus of the Institute is algebra and the mathematics of functions.

The project’s research program will evaluate the impact of the project and clarify whether and how algebra and the mathematics of functions can help teachers and students unite apparently disconnected topics in the mathematics curricula.

Poincare Institute: Project Launch January 2011

PoincareInstituteProject LaunchJanuary2011

Course 3 Launch and Work in Schools: January 2012


Key Components of the Project

  • Three graduate-level online courses for mathematics teachers of grades 5-9, focusing on the mathematics of functions and modeling. This series of highly interactive courses include both challenging mathematical content and pedagogical insights drawn from current research on mathematics learning and teaching.
  • Self-sustaining school-based discussion forums focused on effective pedagogy for mathematics instruction. Assisted by mentors from Tufts and TERC, teachers plan, review and improve their lessons, drawing upon critical mathematical topics and issues of learning and teaching.
  • Research on the impact of the Institute on teachers’ knowledge and methods, as well as on the learning of their students.

Focus on Middle School Mathematics
Partners in this proposal recognize the critical importance of middle school, a period when many students lose interest in mathematics. The problem is acute not only in urban centers, where algebra has often served as an “engine of inequity” (Kaput, 1998) that widens the achievement gap, but also a concern in rural areas and in areas of immigrant concentration. The project rests on the premise that in order to improve students’ learning, one needs to broaden and deepen teachers’ understanding of mathematics, of how children think and learn, and of mathematics knowledge for teaching.

Broad Impact

  • More than 2200 students each year, plus 180 in-service teachers and 24 new teachers will benefit from the project’s work.
  • The Institute will strengthen and expand collaborative partnerships with schools both by preparing teachers and researchers in Mathematics and Education, and supporting school districts’ efforts to improve their mathematics curricula.
  • The Institute offers an interdisciplinary, research-based model for introducing a deeper, integrated approach to mathematics in districts where minority and under-privileged students typically underperform. As a result, a teacher development model will be developed that can be adopted by other university-school district partnerships.

Kaput, J. J. (1998). Transforming algebra from an engine of inequity to an engine of mathematical power by ‘algebrafying’ the K-12 Curriculum. In The Nature and Role of Algebra in the K-14 Curriculum (pp. 25-26). Washington, D.C.: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Mathematical Sciences Education Board, National Research Council.


Graphic adapted from fdecomite under CC BY 2.0.