Case Studies

Case Studies

Helping districts create AHAs

Creating AHAs works closely with schools, districts, and institutions to provide professional learning experiences that meet their specific needs.

The process begins with a discussion to learn a bit of:

  • the current instructional approaches and resources used to teach mathematics
  • the goals for the project
  • the needs of the targeted group
  • the current climate

Potential learning experiences are discussed and a plan is developed. Modifications are made as needed throughout the duration of the project to ensure that project goals are met.

Below is a sampling of professional learning experiences provided by Creating AHAs. Included are samples of:

  • Customized Professional Development
  • Helping struggling districts and schools
  • Keynotes, Breakout Sessions, and Whole Day

Customized Professional Learning

Midsize West Virginia School District
West Virginia

Multi-faceted multi-year project to support the district’s mathematics focus. Working with the district’s elementary coordinators and building administrators, professional learning experiences were designed based on the district’s needs and the needs of the teachers within specific buildings.

Creating AHAs worked directly with administrators, instructional coaches, teachers, and students 5-10 days per month for 6 months.

  • Administrator session on building conceptual depth in mathematics.
  • Analysis of current instructional practices, successes, and challenges by building.
  • 1-2 hour introductory sessions on building conceptual depth.
  • Grade level meetings to discuss concept development.
  • Demonstration lessons with pre brief, lesson, and debrief components.
  • Lesson development and implementation coaching.
  • Meetings with instructional coaches to identify issues and design appropriate support.
  • Whole-day sessions, grades 4-5, Creating Fraction and Decimal AHAs.
  • Whole-day sessions, grade 3, Developing Conceptual Understandings of Fractions and Multiplication.
  • Half-day sessions, grades K-2, Number Sense and Conceptual Understandings of Addition and Subtraction.
  • Half-day sessions, PreK-1, Building a Firm Foundation—Number Sense.
  • Administrator collaboration, discussion of observed instructional techniques, and strategizing next steps for supporting teachers in their buildings.
Large Elementary School in a Large School District
Southern Washington

District level sessions for all 3rd-5th grade teachers…Developing Conceptual Depth–Common and Decimal Fractions; Developing Conceptual Depth–Operation Sense

School-based sessions…The art of finding out what students are really thinking—all classroom teachers and coaches. These sessions were designed to meet the specific goals and needs of the school. Below is the format for the day at one of the elementary buildings.

  • Whole group forum setting: A classroom teacher and I discussed the strengths and perceived struggles of a student I would be interviewing.
  • Via close-circuit the forum observed me interview a primary student.
  • Debriefed interview in the forum setting with whole group.
  • Conducted a whole class interview in an intermediate classroom.
  • Debriefed whole class interview in the forum.
  • Repeated this sequence in the afternoon with an intermediate student and a primary classroom.
  • After-school professional learning session: Closing the mathematics learning gap, an introduction.
Small School District outside of New York City
New York

The art of finding out what students are really thinking—math specialists.

  • Interviews with struggling 1st and 3rd grade students to determine their conceptual gaps.
  • Interviews with talented 1st and 3rd grade students to quickly determine the depth of their understandings as well as any conceptual gaps.
  • Identifying next steps.

Helping Struggling Districts and Schools

Small Kansas School District

Multi-faceted year-long project to support a district that did not meet AYP as well as a school within the district that did not meet AYP. The district has adopted a new curriculum, the Common Core Mathematical Practices and was moving toward implementing the Common Core Standards. The focus for this project was to assist teachers and principals with implementing and supporting the implementation of best practices in mathematics to increase student achievement.

  • Keynote and large group district level sessions to kick off each semester.
  • Site-based support and coaching at a school which did not meet AYP.
  • Short observation walk thrus with building principals focusing on what to look for (level of questions asked, who is doing the majority of the talking, content correctness and appropriateness)
  • Classroom-based special education support for teachers and para-professionals
  • Support math teams in mapping curriculum to Common Core.
Midsize Missouri School District

Helping two schools that did not meet AYP identify needs and implement best practices in teaching mathematics—two week project.

  • Needs assessment including teacher observations and meetings with PLCs.
  • Collaborative planning and demonstration lessons with debriefing focused on students’ understandings.
  • Teacher support and coaching.
  • Professional learning school-wide sessions.

Keynotes, Breakout Sessions, and Whole Day Professional Learning Sessions

Wisconsin Mathematics Council

Mathematical Proficiency for Every Student
Assessment, Instruction, Intervention & the Implication for Student Learning


Year 4 of a special regional 2-day conference focused on building mathematical proficiency for every student. Day 1—Next Generation Assessment. Day 2—Putting Content Knowledge for Teaching & Support for Intervention.  This year’s keynote is a continuation of the keynotes given years 1, 2, & 3—I’ve got the skills but what’s the concept? The importance of the vertical progression of concepts in providing effective intervention.

  • Keynote—I’ve got the skills but what’s the concept? The importance of the vertical progression of concepts in providing effective intervention.
  • Grades K-2 Breakout Session–Determining what they know so we can build conceptual depth.
  • Grades 3-5 Breakout Session–The power of whole group interviews in informing instruction.
  • Grades K-2 Breakout Session—Making mathematics memorable and engaging: What do we need to understand? 
  • Administrators Breakout Session–A model for helping teachers take a closer look: Taking time to analyze student understandings and related instructional decisions for closing the mathematical learning gap.
Midsize Western Washington State School District

Targeted full day professional learning sessions.

  • Whole-day session for kindergarten teachers — Building a firm foundation & the Common Core
  • Whole-day session— Closing the language gap, Grades 2-7
  • Whole-day session — Closing the math learning gap, Grades 1-2


Let Creating AHAs help you create those AHA moments.

Sandy Atkins, Ph.D.
Executive Director

Phone: 314 623-5369

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.