The Elementary Mathematics Laboratory (EML) is structured to make it possible for educators, policymakers, and education advocates to engage directly in the close study of teaching practice. The unique laboratory setting provides participants with opportunities to delve into the complexity of teaching as well as develop specific professional skills.

  • The 2017 EML will be held in Ann Arbor, Michigan from July 31 – August 11, 2017. The class is produced in partnership with the Ypsilanti Community Schools, and is taught by Deborah Loewenberg Ball, an experienced elementary school teacher and faculty member at the University of Michigan. 

2017 Elementary Mathematics Laboratory

About the 2017 EML

The class enrolls up to 30 children who will be entering fifth grade in the fall at Ypsilanti Community Schools.  The students are diverse ethnically, racially, economically, and linguistically. The instruction is specially designed to develop strong and positive academic identities in our students and to set them on a path to success in school mathematics. It seeks to fill gaps in student knowledge while ramping up students’ reasoning and problem-solving skills through accelerated instruction, tasks, and problems that are created strategically to stretch students’ thinking and build their capacity to engage in the mathematical practices that will be required by the Common Core State Standards. The class also emphasizes the development of skills of respectful argument and critical analysis, and of attentive engagement with others’ ideas and thinking.  To ensure a well-rounded experience and support strong social-emotional development, students participate in creative fine arts activities during the afternoons.

Over the past decade, Dr. Ball has developed skills of teaching in public that enable observers to analyze teaching. This public teaching is the centerpiece of the EML professional development program. Workshop attendees start each day with Dr. Ball and the instructional team in a “pre-brief” session before the class, in which they examine, discuss, and refine the day's lesson plans and strategies for the instruction.  Attendees then observe the instruction in the classroom or remote viewing rooms. The group gathers after the class with Dr. Ball to debrief the class, ask questions, and review daily student work before attending afternoon workshops. Past attendees have remarked that the laboratory class and associated professional development workshops have "transformed the way they analyze (their own) teaching" and "have empowered their work as a teacher and renewed their enthusiasm for the classroom."

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Professional Development Schedule and Descriptions

TeachingWorks will host a variety of professional development opportunities for classroom teachers, teacher educators, teacher leaders, and school administrators at the 2017 EML. All professional development sessions take place during the first week of the EML on July 31 - August 4. Registration will be available on May 1, 2017.

Leading Mathematically Productive Discussions (Week 1, July 31 - August 4)

How do we support students to build ideas and arguments collectively through discussion? The Common Core State Standards encourage the use of discussion as a means to build and critique mathematical arguments and reasoning. What teaching practices enable all students to participate in discussions? What teaching practices keep the focus of the discussion on the mathematics at hand? How can we encourage students to build a collective understanding of mathematics content? These and other questions related to productive discussions will be explored through observation and analysis of the laboratory class as well as scaffolded practice.

This one-week session provides participants the opportunity to: 

  • Observe and analyze the use of mathematically productive discussions in an elementary classroom.
  • Examine and apply guidelines for determining discussion-worthy tasks.
  • Build a toolbox of teacher moves to support students in mathematically relevant discussion.
  • Identify the different purposes and types of discussions most frequently encountered in mathematics classrooms.  

Examining Children's Mathematical Understanding (1 week)

An opportunity to closely study children's understanding of mathematics through observation and analysis of the Elementary Mathematics Laboratory.

This workshop will focus on using evidence-based techniques to examine children's learning of complex mathematical ideas. This session provides participants with opportunities to:

  • Examine the mathematics that children are engaging in during the EML and consider common patterns of student thinking related to the mathematical work.
  • Develop techniques for analyzing student work and talk to inform instructional decisions.
  • Consider how our own ability to examine students' understanding impacts how we see and support children as doers of mathematics.

Examining Teacher and Student Questioning Practices in the EML (1 week) with Melissa Kemmerle

An opportunity to examine the questions of teachers and students and the impact of these questions through observation and analysis of the Elementary Mathematics Laboratory.

This workshop will focus on the questions the teacher asks her students (and why she asks them) as well as the instructional decisions the teacher makes that create opportunities for students to themselves ask questions. Two frameworks will help us analyze and categorize teacher and student questions in order to help us think about how questioning impacts opportunities to learn.

This session provides participants with opportunities to:

  • Examine key components of effective elementary mathematics teaching, with a focus on teacher and student questioning.
  • Practice observing instruction through the lens of teacher and student questions.
  • Analyze the opportunities for learning that particular question types provide.
  • Consider strategies for developing impactful questioning in your classroom.

Instructional Leadership Through the Examination of High-Leverage Practices: Observation, feedback, and dialogue (1 week) with Simona Goldin

An opportunity for instructional leaders to develop an understanding of several high-leverage practices (HLPs) of teaching. This workshop will focus on methods for observing and giving feedback on particular HLPs, including strategies and protocols for productive dialogue around teaching practice (week 1).

This session provides participants with opportunities to:

  • Examine key components of effective elementary mathematics teaching, with a focus on high-leverage teaching practices.
  • Practice observing instruction with a focus on particular HLPs.
  • Understand and practice methods for giving feedback on instruction related to particular HLPs.
  • Engage in protocols for productive dialogue around teaching practice.

Making Mathematical Connections (1 week) with Hyman Bass

An opportunity for university faculty and teacher educators to study elementary instruction focused on mathematics within the Common Core State Standards. During the class, participants will observe with a particular focus on the mathematics, including connections between the problems that students are being aked to solve and the ways in which they are supported by the teacher to develop these connections. Participants will also examine other records such as lesson plans and student notebooks.

EML Observation Opportunities 

The EML provides an unusual opportunity to experience the complexity of teaching. This instance of public teaching may be of interest to a wide range of educators, policymakers, education advocates, or journalists. We have reserved a limited number of seats for observers to attend the laboratory class each week. The fee for observation only participants is $400 per week. Registration will be available soon.

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Fees for attending the Elementary Mathematics Laboratory include:

  • Electronic library of daily materials available for one year following the close of the program
  • Electronic access to the Teaching & Learning Exploratory, an extensive collection of records of teaching practice, including past EML sessions
  • Immediate access to video of all sessions
  • Participation and live viewing of the morning laboratory class
  • Daily pre- and post-class discussions with Dr. Ball
  • Two hours of daily professional development
  • Breakfast
  • Parking validation

The cost of attending professional development workshops at the 2017 EML is $650 for the week of July 31 - August 4, 2017. The cost of lunch, travel, and lodging are not included in this fee.

Daily Schedule and Details

The EML runs each day from 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. for adult participants. A daily schedule will be emailed to participants prior to the EML.


Ann Arbor is located in southeast Michigan and is accessible by car, plane, train, or bus. For more information on transportation, both within the city and from your location, please visit the Travel Planning: Maps, lodging, transportation, and parking page.

Frequently Asked Questions

For answers to frequently asked questions about participating in the EML, please click here.



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Contact TeachingWorks

If you have additional questions or would like additional information about attending the 2017 EML, please contact us at

Registration will be available on May 1, 2017.

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