Connected Mathematics: A Research Overview

CMP Books over the ages

The Connected Mathematics Project (CMP) at Michigan State University (MSU) has been working for over 27 years to design, develop, field-test, evaluate, and disseminate mathematics materials for middle school students and teachers. The development of CMP1 and CMP2 was supported by funding from the National Science Foundation, including over $9.5 million in curriculum development and research as well as $5.0 million in professional development and teacher support. With CMP1, CMP2, and CMP3, the MSU authors and administration have used the CMP royalties to establish MSU Mathematics Education Enrichment Funds which support research and development in mathematics and science education.

The Overarching Goal of CMP

The overarching goal of Connected Mathematics is to help students develop an understanding of important concepts, skills, procedures, and ways of thinking and reasoning in number, geometry, measurement, algebra, probability, and statistics. A concomitant goal is to help students and teachers develop an awareness of and appreciation for the rich connections among mathematical strands and between mathematics and other disciplines.

Co-Development with Teachers and Students

Development CycleThe unique development process spans repetitive years of design, field trials, and data feedback cycles pictured in the diagram. This includes feedback from teachers, administrators, researchers, parents, and students from across the country. Over 425 teachers and thousands of their students in 54 school district trial sites played a major role in the development of the curriculum. These interactions between teachers and students with the materials are the most compelling parts of the materials.

Most Widely Used Middle School Curriculum

CMP is a globally adopted curriculum in diverse countries, such as China, England, United Arab Emirates. CMP is used in all 50 of the United States. The use of CMP in teacher education courses and professional learning settings continues to grow.

Research Findings on CMP

Effects of the use of CMP have been described in expository journal articles and evaluated in mathematics education research projects. A substantial number of research studies have been carried out in classrooms since the release of CMP1 in 1996. This includes over

150 research articles and reports,

40 books and book chapters,

50 conference proceedings,

70 dissertations and theses, and

25 evaluation studies.

As a result, there is a growing body of published articles within CMP classrooms on efficacy, evaluation, classroom discourse, teacher knowledge, student reasoning, problem solving, and student understanding of mathematics.

  • Compared to their peers using conventional middle school mathematics curricula, students in CMP classrooms achieve greater conceptual gains that require mathematical modeling, mathematical reasoning, and/or careful articulation of mathematical thinking. These gains on a variety of learning measures also show that students do as well or better on procedural skills (Ben-Chaim, Fey, Fitzgerald, Benedetto, & Miller, 1998; Cai, Moyer, Hwang, Nie, & Garger, 2012; Cain, 2002; Conklin, Grant, Rickard, & Rivette, 2006; Eddy, Berry, Aquirre, Wahlstrand, Ruitman, & Majajan, 2008; Reys, Reys, Lapan, Holliday, & Wasman, 2003).
  • The advantages in conceptual understanding and problem-solving persist as students enter high school. CMP students performed better than or as well as non-CMP students on a variety of learning measures (Cai, 2014).
  • The effects of using CMP on student learning performance typically improves more after multiple years of using CMP within schools (Bray, 2005; O’Clair, 2005; Reys et al., 2003; Tarr, Reys, Reys, Chavez, Shih, & Osterlind, 2008).
  • Compared to conventional mathematics classrooms, there is a much greater focus on students communicating mathematical ideas. This focus entails group work and dialogue amongst students (Cady & Hodges, 2015; Cai, 2014). CMP students had more positive experiences and were more satisfied in their mathematics classes than non-CMP students (Covington Clark, 2001). After seeing the mathematics students are able to do, teachers do not favor returning to a conventional curriculum (Schneider, 1998).
  • This evidence on successful implementation of problem-centered curricula like CMP points to the need for consistent and sustained professional development and collaboration between teachers and administrators in a variety of forms (Heck, Banilower, Weiss, & Rosenberg, 2008). When students learned from CMP teachers with less teaching experience but who attended more professional development and team planning as promoted by CMP, students had higher mathematics scores (O’Clair, 2005).