Elementary Math Teacher Leader (EMTL) Program

Sponsored by the Delaware Mathematics Coalition, the EMTL program is designed to support teachers in their efforts to acquire the content knowledge and pedagogical skills necessary to successfully engage their students in rich Common Core-inspired learning experiences. The program is funded in part by a Math Science Partnership grant administered by the Delaware Department of Education.

Members of the EMTL planning and professional development team include Valerie Maxwell,  Jan Parsons, Jamila Riser, Nancy Thornburg, Sally Todorow (Brandywine), and Laurie Silverstein (Appoquinimink).

Dr. Virginia Bastable (Mount Holyoke) serves as a valuable thought partner on the team. She provides expertise to support EMTL’s course-of-study, particularly with regard to the content-focused work related to the structure and behavior of operations and the team’s efforts to engage participants in actively promoting conceptual understanding, mathematical reasoning, and “representation-based” argumentation.

Understanding the Behavior of Operations

The EMTL team utilizes rich problems and number routines purposefully designed to elicit and build students’ reasoning skills. EMTL coaches, mathematics specialists, and teachers engage in the following mathematical work in support of improved learning outcomes in participants’ classrooms:

• Noticing regularities and structure in number.
• Constructing and investigating conjectures about their observations.
• Using multiple representations to support claims about number properties.
• Articulating viable arguments & critiquing the reasoning of others.
• Comparing & contrasting operations.

Participants read and discuss research on the phases of student learning and number operations, with an emphasis on work taken from:
Connecting Arithmetic to Algebra, Making Number Talks Matter. Number Talks: Fractions, Decimals, & Percents, & Intentional Talk.


According to Research for Better Schools (2017), EMTL participants say…

“EMTL has been the most beneficial PD opportunity that I have ever been involved in. The insight into math has been unparalleled, the opportunity to work with other educators throughout the state has been insightful, and the connectedness to research from professional in the field has been tightly aligned.”  

Findings from past evaluators (Horizon, 2015) includes…

“[In EMTL] we engage in learning events around mathematics in order to: deepen our own content knowledge; identify and experience pedagogical techniques; discuss and analyze these techniques with a strong focus on collaborating with our peers.” [EMTL Teacher Participant]

“As a result of participating in EMTL as a coach, I am trying to refocus the teachers that I work with to seeing the opportunities for student discourse in the math classroom. We are working on finding opportunities to grapple with the mathematics that lead to the goals of the lessons. We are using student work to drive this discussion as well. As a coach, I am helping teachers plan more purposefully around their goals of each lesson.” [Coach]

“I’ve got teachers at almost every grade level that participate in the project. So they come back to their PLCs and they share some of the ideas that come up during our grading sessions. So the learning progressions in particular this year were the focus of the elementary teacher math project, and they were able to learn things in the session, come back and implement them in their classrooms, share it with their teams, and then receive feedback from me. They’d invite me in to come see them do some of the lessons with their kids, so sort of like the transfer of the information from that project at the state level back to our building so that we could systematically get it to everybody.” [Elementary Assistant Principal]

“I think that they (EMTL teacher) take more risks. I think that they feel supported in the fact that when they go to the professional development, they’re learning things that they can put into action in the classroom. And if it means slowing down the pace of something else, that they’re supported by the administration, that when they walk in, if it’s something that they’ve learned at this professional development that they’re putting into action, that they’re going to be supported for taking that risk, no matter what happens in the moment in the classroom. They feel supported.” [District Math Coach]

“It’s [EMTL] been a guiding force for change within our district in mindset and in instruction. So we consider it a privilege to be able to go. I have teachers fight it out as to who’s going to get sent. If we had all the money in the world, we’d send them all.” [Building Administrator]

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