# James RussoMonash University (Australia) · Faculty of Education

James Russo

Doctor of Philosophy

## About

165

Publications

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Introduction

**Skills and Expertise**

## Publications

Publications (165)

The current study considered young students’ (seven and eight years old) experiences and perceptions of mathematics lessons involving challenging (i.e., cognitively demanding) tasks. We used the Constant Comparative Method to analyse the interview responses (n=73) regarding what work artefacts students were most proud of creating and why. Five them...

Despite reforms in mathematics education, many teachers remain reluctant to incorporate challenging (i.e., more cognitively demanding) tasks into their mathematics instruction. The current study examines how lesson structure shapes teacher perceptions of teaching with challenging tasks. Participants included three Year 1/2 classroom teachers who ob...

Research suggests that teachers of mathematics are frequently reluctant to pose challenging tasks to students. Reasons for this reluctance include fears of negative student reactions, time and resource constraints, and a lack of relevant teacher content knowledge. The current study involved interviewing three early primary-grade (elementary) teache...

Engaging students in a challenging (cognitively demanding) task and launching a mathematics lesson with a task before instruction are two characteristics of a reform-oriented approach to mathematics instruction often considered together. The authors systematically contrasted teaching with challenging tasks using a task-first lesson structure with t...

In this study we explored the relationship between teacher enjoyment of teaching mathematics, their attitudes towards student struggle, and the amount of time teachers spent teaching mathematics. Ninety-eight primary educators were surveyed regarding their attitudes and behaviors towards mathematics instruction. Hierarchical regression analyses rev...

How can we engage all primary school students in rich mathematical learning, support them to make connections, and develop their mathematical language and reasoning? In this article, we draw on one school’s experience in considering an approach to mathematics instruction that could support teachers in addressing this question, specifically pursuing...

Just as students experience productive struggle or spend time in the ‘zone of confusion’ when engaging with challenging tasks, teachers also experience similar difficulties and periods of confusion when engaging with new pedagogical approaches. Prior to a 19-week lockdown due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) during 2020, two Foundation teachers implemente...

Using children’s literature to support mathematics instruction has been connected to positive academic outcomes and learning dispositions; however, less is known about the use of audiovisual based narrative mediums to support student mathematical learning experiences. The current exploratory, qualitative study involved teaching three lessons based...

Effective middle leading of mathematics is a complex task as it requires a focus on improving learning outcomes for students. This study gathered information about the activities of middle leaders of mathematics using a survey of primary and secondary mathematics leaders. Both primary and secondary mathematics leaders more often focussed on interac...

All students should have access to learning experiences that help them make sense of important mathematical concepts. This study highlights teacher actions for consolidating student learning during teacher-lead discussion in the early years. We report on a case study of a Year 1 teacher involving a lesson observation. Highlights of the lesson inclu...

Research examining teachers’ decision making is abundant for pedagogical activities, yet a neglected area is the study of factors influencing teachers when selecting mathematical games. This article sheds light on the factors considered when teachers’ select a specific game to use in their primary mathematics classroom. Data from 248 Australian pri...

In this article, the authors from Monash University and the University of Sydney have collaborated to present a research-informed model to support the planning and teaching of mathematics, using a student centred structured inquiry approach.

This collaborative inquiry between an academic (James Russo) and two school-based practitioners (Jessie McCosh and Travis Hewish) explores student attitudes towards learning mathematics through problem solving in a medium sized primary school in regional Victoria.

The purpose of this article is to consider the connections between teaching with challenging tasks and the 10 High Impact Teaching Strategies (H.I.T.S.) identified by the Victorian Department of Education and Training. We are often asked the question by Victorian teachers when providing professional learning around teaching with challenging tasks,...

Mathematical games can be a useful tool for building connections between the learning that happens in the classroom, and the home environment (Russo, Russo & Bragg, 2018). Clearly, the events of 2020 have only amplified the potential power of mathematical games to be used for this purpose, as teachers have sort out highly engaging learning experien...

Despite the construct of challenge being recognized as an essential element of mathematics instruction, concerns have been raised about whether such approaches benefit students with diverse academic needs. In this article, we focus on the beliefs and instructional practices of teachers teaching students in the first three years of school (5 to 8 ye...

Mathematical games are widely employed by Australian primary school teachers to support mathematics instruction. Despite broad usage, prior research has not focused on the how and why games are employed from a teacher perspective. Australian primary school teachers (n = 248) completed a questionnaire designed to probe their experience with mathemat...

Despite teacher enjoyment of teaching being associated with a range of benefits for teachers and their students, little research exploring the characteristics of teachers who enjoy teaching mathematics exists. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten teachers who scored in the top third in terms of their enjoyment of teaching mathematics...

These two related short articles contain classroom activities for primary school teachers. Fairy tales provide wonderful contexts for exploring a variety of important mathematical ideas. Read or retell one of these fairy tales to students and undertake the associated investigation. Afterwards, invite students to reflect on their own favourite fairy...

Estimation supports the development of higher-level mathematical thinking and reasoning; however, has received relatively little research attention. We examined whether making predictions influences the accuracy of numerosity estimates in elementary-aged children, and whether the amount of information available to the estimator determines the accur...

Given what is known about the importance of productive struggle for supporting student learning of mathematics at all levels, the current study sought to examine teacher attitudes towards student struggle when students learn mathematics in remote learning settings compared with classroom settings. Eighty-two Australian early years primary teachers...

In early 2020, due to the COVD-19 pandemic, Australian schools were closed and students began an unprecedented time of remote learning. The current study aimed to understand how teachers planned and implemented mathematics learning programs for their students, the challenges they encountered, as well as the degree to which their students were motiv...

Understanding exponential growth is a fundamental aspect of developing critical numeracy skills; however, typically, exponential growth is introduced in curricular documents to secondary students. Moreover, such introductions tend to be in the context of formal mathematical modeling, divorced from a sense of quantity. We argue that, given its impor...

Teacher reluctance to teach mathematics through challenging tasks is frequently linked to beliefs that such approaches are not appropriate for students perceived as less mathematically capable. One potential means of shifting such beliefs is inviting teachers to reflect on students that surprise them when working on such tasks. Early years' primary...

Little is known about primary school mathematics middle leaders' aspirations for mathematics learning. We sought to give mathematics middle leaders a voice to articulate their desires for mathematics learning based on what was most salient to them. Statements collected from 149 primary school mathematics middle leaders through an online survey were...

There is a growing awareness that many children are not developing fast and accurate retrieval-based strategies for solving single-digit addition problems. In this study we individually assessed 166 third and fourth grade children to identify a group of children (called accurate-min-counters) who frequently solved simple single-digit addition probl...

Understanding the properties of multiplication is a critical precursor to students' thinking algebraically. However, these properties have not been the focus of extensive rigorous research, particularly the associative property. In this study, we report on follow-up interviews with 25 year 5-6 students who had completed five items taken from an ass...

Teaching mathematics through problem solving is central to contemporary approaches to mathematics instruction, whilst augmenting problem-solving tasks through enabling and extending prompts ensures that a diverse community of learners are provided with opportunities to be optimally challenged, supporting an inclusive classroom environment. However,...

The fear of making mistakes and avoidance of risks can create disabling anxiety and limit learning opportunities. The team from Monash University and the University of Sydney describe the features of learning environments which increase enjoyment and engagement of students who experience anxiety.

Help to develop students’ conceptual understanding of fractions through this tactical card-based game. Nearest to One promotes number-sense based strategies for comparing fractions, such as benchmarking (e.g., Is the fraction greater or less than one-half?) and building to the next whole, also known as residual thinking (e.g., How much more to make...

Australian schools, like schools elsewhere, have been through a period of closure. The closure creates both threats and opportunities for teachers and students. In the context of a project exploring approaches to teaching in early years, we outline some considerations and offer advice to teachers and educators on strategies for welcoming students b...

Regular contributors James and Toby Russo return with a sixth principle for educationally-rich mathematical games—almost all mathematical games have the potential to be transformed into an investigation. This article builds on their earlier piece with Leicha Bragg (APMC 23(3), 30–34).

Teaching assistants are not always utilised effectively in mathematics classrooms. Moreover, there is limited research examining instructional models that might more meaningfully incorporate teaching assistants into the teaching and learning of mathematics. To address this gap in the literature, the current study explored three distinct teacher-tut...

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore whether the four value alignment strategies available to educators (Scaffolding, Balancing, Intervention and Refuge) previously identified in the mathematics education literature comprehensively capture educator value alignment strategies in an intervention context.
Design/Approach/Methods: To this...

There is frequently a substantial disconnect reported between educational research and classroom practice. It has been proposed that individuals operating at the intersection of research and practice can potentially strengthen the relationship between the two communities through transcending institutional boundaries. The current study involved semi...

It is possible that learning from home during the COVID-19 lock down can be productive especially if teachers developed mathematical learning experiences that challenge student thinking. But it is also possible that time away from school might have exacerbated differences in learning opportunities. This article explores ways to reengage students wh...

Movie clips can be an effective way to contextualise mathematical problems and engage students. These challenging tasks use a short video clip as a prompt to launch the problem.

A great deal of research has looked at the use of photographs, illustrations, and diagrams to
support student understanding of mathematical concepts. In this paper, the authors explore
some of the advantages that dynamic representations have over their static counterparts as
they put movies under a mathematical lens.

This chapter presents a critical review and celebration of the most significant Australasian early childhoodEarly childhood mathematics education research that has been published over the period 2016–2019. We utilise the internationally-accepted definition of ‘early childhood’Early childhood as the age range birth to eight years, encompassing prior...

Evolution is a strategy-based dice and card game that borrows ideas from evolution to create an engaging context to support the learning of important number concepts. Playing Evolution facilitates the development of several interrelated numerical skills and understandings, including skip-counting, factorising, and identifying prime and composite nu...

Reform-oriented approaches to mathematics instruction view struggle as critical to learning; however, research suggests many teachers resist providing opportunities for students to struggle. Ninety-three early-years Australian elementary teachers completed a questionnaire about their understanding of the role of struggle in the mathematics classroo...

In response to increasing teacher interest in how to design and implement effective challenging tasks, James presents the Launch/Explore/Discuss model that builds on the work of leading Australian educators and researchers Peter Sullivan, Doug Clarke, and Charles Lovitt.

This chapter uses the notion of relentless consistency, elaborated by Laurinda Brown, to describe an approach to teaching mathematics we are researching. A fundamental assumption is that students learn better and engage actively when tasks on which they are working on are more rather than less challenging. The article describes how challenge is con...

The following series of challenging tasks are built around three wonderful picture story books by author/illustrator Oliver Jeffers. We suggest reading each book and tackling these tasks.

In this article, the authors promote the use of base-5 blocks as a novel context to develop
students’ number sense and improve their base-10 place value understanding.

The authors describe a mathematics lesson designed to allow students to use their own thinking to solve elapsed time problems. Their approach emphasises student-centred structured inquiry, and follows a ‘Launch, Explore and Summarise’ format.

In this article, James presents the Extended Hundreds Chart, a task he used with Year 6
students to explore their thinking about and representations of negative numbers.

This paper outlines a tutoring initiative intended to re-engage students who have become alienated from mathematics class at school. The initiative is focused on priming students for their subsequent mathematics lessons, and is referred to as “Getting Ready in Numeracy” (G.R.I.N.). Following a discussion outlining the principles of G.R.I.N., data f...

Exploring non-standard partitioning and renaming numbers flexibly, can be considered at the heart of understanding whole-number place value (Rogers, 2018), however, it remains a difficult concept for children to grasp. These two games are intended to support students develop fluency with non-standard partitioning.

Building on recent research into the importance of positive teacher emotions for student learning experiences, the current study involved five upper primary teachers at a Victorian government school developing inquiry mathematics units built around topic areas of personal interest or passion. Respective students (n=88) elected to participate in one...

In this paper, we elucidate the steps taken to develop an assessment of mental-computational fluency, with the aim to capture the key features of the construct, namely procedural flexibility, efficiency, and accuracy. Over 200 children in third and fourth grade completed the assessment. Using Rasch analyses, we investigated which items contributed...

In this paper we report on changes to teachers’ practices as a result of their participation in a research-based program of professional learning focused on challenging tasks. Seventy early years teachers responded to a survey at the end of a year-long program asking them to nominate and describe the teaching practices that changed most as a result...

We report on 25 Year 5-6 students' written responses to two items taken from an assessment of mental computation fluency with multiplication, alongside their reasoning of the strategy they had employed, which may or may not have made use of the associative property. Coding of this interview data revealed four distinct levels of conceptual understan...

Building on recent research into the importance of positive teacher emotions for student learning experiences, the current study involved five upper primary teachers at a Victorian government school developing integrated mathematics units built around topic areas of personal interest or passion. Respective students (n=88) elected to participate in...

Building on the rich tradition of ‘teacher as researcher’ in mathematics education, I describe a study undertaken whilst working as a mathematics specialist in an Australian primary school. The focus of the study was on examining whether explicitly teaching students test-taking strategies (‘test-wiseness’) improved their performance on a standardis...

In this article, the authors emphasise the importance of purposeful mathematical discussion and using sequences of connected, cumulative, and challenging tasks in advancing students' spatial reasoning in the early years of schooling.

This article outlines teaching ideas appropriate for primary mathematics. It is mainly aimed at primary school teachers and teacher-researchers. Number lines are a powerful tool for supporting mental computation. Introducing the number line in Kindergarten or Foundation has benefits if you consider that number lines can be used to support both flue...

Encouraging teachers to incorporate challenging tasks into mathematics instruction is frequently implored by mathematics educators, due to its potential impact on student learning and persistence. However, there is evidence that teaching with such tasks is pedagogically demanding, particularly for less expert teachers. To support a developing dialo...