Learning to Look, Looking to Learn


  • Karen Rothschild
  • Marvin Cohen
  • Babette Moeller
  • Barbara Dubitsky
  • Nesta Marshall
  • Matt McLeod


Mathematics, STEM, Informal assessment, Neurodevelopmental framework, Low-inference observations, Lesson planning


In order to plan and implement lessons that will be effective for a wide variety of learners, teachers must assess what students know and how they know it. They must also know students’ academic strengths, challenges, and preferences. Careful observation of what students do and say as they work provides a rich source of data about both their knowledge and ways of learning. We highlight three strategies we use to help teachers refine their understanding of individual students: (a) building teachers’ skills in observing without making judgements; (b) teaching teachers to use a shared, neurodevelopmental framework through which to view student learning and behavior; and (c) facilitating collaboration among general education and special education teachers in using these tools to assess student learning and plan lessons. The combination of careful observations, a neurodevelopmental lens through which to see and interpret the observations, and the different perspectives of general and special education teachers, builds a foundation for planning appropriately leveled and rigorous lessons that leverage students’ strengths while supporting them in their weaker areas.

Author Biographies

Karen Rothschild


Karen Rothschild is a member of the faculty of the Leadership in Mathematics Program at Bank Street College of Education in New York City and an independent math consultant. Dr. Rothschild is interested in how children learn mathematics and the potential of all students to appreciate and learn it.

Marvin Cohen


Marvin Cohen is a Senior Faculty member (Niemeyer Chair, 2005) at Bank Street College of Education in New York, New York. He is a faculty member of the Leadership in Mathematics Program faculty, where he teaches mathematics pedagogy and content classes and serves as an advisor. With his colleagues, Dr. Cohen helped to develop the ten video case studies that are the foundation of the Math for All professional development curriculum, aimed at increasing access to meaningful mathematics for all children in Grades K–5.

Babette Moeller


Babette Moeller is a Distinguished Scholar at the Center for Children and Technology of the Education Development Center in New York City. Her work focuses on the development of and research on technology-enhanced programs in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering that help to ensure that all students will be included in and benefit from educational reform efforts. Dr. Moeller is one of the lead authors of the Math for All professional development program.

Barbara Dubitsky


Barbara Dubitsky is a faculty member emeritus at Bank Street College of Education in New York City, where she was the Director of the Leadership in Mathematics Education Program and served as the Chair of Computer Programs. She is one of the lead authors of the Math for All professional development program. Currently, Dr. Dubitsky is working as a volunteer at the Bronx Arena High School in New York, a transfer school for students who are getting a second chance at finishing their high school degree. She is helping them to create a series of new mathematics curricula.

Nesta Marshall


Nesta Marshall is an instructor and advisor of general education and special education teachers at Bank Street College of Education in New York City. Ms. Marshall is committed to equipping teachers with tools to plan and execute effective inclusive lessons that meet the needs of diverse learners.

Matt McLeod


Matt McLeod has a background in teaching, coaching and professional development in K-12 mathematics primarily in large urban districts. Mr. McLeod’s philosophy is that all children can learn deep mathematics, and each one should be provided the opportunity by engaging them in the act of doing mathematics. He believes that a teacher’s role is not to disseminate information, but to facilitate learning by establishing the right environment and providing the necessary resources for every student.