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Faculty & Research

Jon R. Star

Professor of Education
Faculty Director, Doctor of Philosophy in Education Program
Faculty Director, Doctor of Education Program

Jon R. Star

Degree:  Ph.D., University of Michigan, (2001)
Email:  [javascript protected email address]
Phone:  617.496.2511
Vitae/CV:   Jon R. Star.pdf
Office:  Gutman 442
Office Hours Contact:  Email the Faculty Member
Faculty Assistant:  Natalie J Solomon


Jon Star is an educational psychologist who studies children's learning of mathematics in middle and high school, particularly algebra. Star's current research explores the development of flexibility in mathematical problem solving, with flexibility defined as knowledge of multiple strategies for solving mathematics problems and the ability to adaptively choose among known strategies on a particular problem. Star also investigates instructional and curricular interventions that may promote the development of mathematical understanding. Star's most recent work is supported by the National Science Foundation. In addition, Star is interested in the preservice preparation of middle and secondary mathematics teachers. Prior to his graduate studies, Star spent six years teaching middle and high school mathematics.

Click here to see a full list of Jon Star's courses.

Areas of Expertise
Sponsored Projects

Using Animated Contrasting Cases to Improve Procedural and Conceptual Knowledge in Geometry (2019-2022)
North Carolina State University

Professor Star will supervise all aspects of the proposed work, in collaboration with the PI at North Carolina State University. In particular, Star will provide expertise on the development, revision, and implementation of the Contrasting Cases curriculum materials. Star will also assist the PI at North Carolina State University with dissemination of project findings.

Collaborative Research: Using Educational Data Mining Techniques to Uncover How and Why Students Learn from Erroneous Examples (2017-2020)
National Science Foundation

Professor Star will supervise all aspects of the proposed work, in collaboration with the PIs at Carnegie Mellon and Columbia. In particular, he will provide math content expertise, supervising the development of learning assessments and the mathematics problem-solving curriculum. Star will also assist the PIs at Carnegie Mellon and Columbia with dissemination of project findings.

Collaborative Research: Leveraging Comparison and Explanation of Multiple Strategies (CEMS) to Improve Algebra Learning (2016-2019)
National Science Foundation

This project focuses on fundamental research on learning in STEM and on STEM learning environments. We theorize that productive learning of algebra is supported by reflection on multiple solution strategies through comparison and explanation of the reasons behind the strategies (Comparison and Explanation of Multiple Strategies: CEMS). Existing theories of algebra learning focus on building conceptual knowledge and place less emphasis on how students gain expertise with symbolic strategies. Working with symbolic strategies is essential in algebra learning, including knowing multiple strategies for solving a problem, selecting the most appropriate procedure for a given problem and understanding the conceptual rationale behind commonly used strategies. In small-scale studies, we found that redesigning lessons on equation solving to integrate a CEMS approach supported greater equation solving knowledge than completing the lessons without a CEMS approach (e.g., Rittle-Johnson & Star, 2007; Rittle-Johnson, Star, & Durkin, 2012). Further, a preliminary set of supplemental materials to support a CEMS approach within a variety of lessons within the Algebra I curriculum has been developed, with evidence that classroom teachers can implement the materials with good fidelity (Star et al., 2015). Across three years, we propose to work with teachers to integrate a CEMS approach into four Algebra I units. In Year 1, we will work with a small number of teachers to refine our existing CEMS materials, to integrate the materials into their curriculum, and to validate outcome measures that assess multiple types of knowledge (e.g., procedural flexibility, conceptual knowledge and procedural knowledge). In Year 2, we will determine the effects of our materials versus a “business as usual” control. In Year 3, we will again study the effects of the CEMS approach versus business as usual, but with a larger group of teachers; we will also study the quality of implementation and impact on student outcomes after treatment teachers have gained some proficiency with the CEMS approach. Using both quantitative and qualitative analyses, we will evaluate the hypotheses that: a) Classroom teachers can successfully and consistently integrate a CEMS approach in their algebra instruction, b) Students’ procedural flexibility, procedural knowledge, and conceptual knowledge for a variety of algebra topics can be reliably assessed and each type of knowledge is positively related and predictive of one another over time, and c) Integrating a CEMS approach supports better procedural flexibility, conceptual knowledge, and procedural knowledge for a variety of algebra topics (units) than business as usual instruction.

BPC-DP: Deploying a Vertically-Integrated Computing Curriculum to At-Risk Students (2011-2013)
National Science Center

Star's role on this project will be to supervise and mentor his doctoral student advisee Emmanuel Schanzer. Schanzer will be responsible for all aspects of the project, including design and piloting of instruments, data collection and analysis, and results dissemination. Note that the data collected as part of this project are intended to be used for Schanzer's dissertation and other publications and presentations.


Ying, L., Liu, R. D., Star, J. Jia, W., Rui, Z., & Huimin, T. (in press). The effect of perceptual fluency on overcoming the interference of the More A-More B intuitive rule among primary school students. Journal of Educational Psychology.



Rittle-Johnson, B., Star, J., Durkin, K. & Loehr, A. (in press). Compare and Discuss to promote deep learning. Manalo, E. (Ed.). Deeper Learning, Communicative Competence, and Critical Thinking: Innovative, Research-Based Strategies for Development in 21st Century Classrooms. New York, NY. Routledge.



Ying, L., Liu, R. D., Star, J. Jia, W., & Huimin, T. (in press). The effect of perceptual fluency on overcoming the interference of the More A-More B intuitive rule among primary school students in a perimeter comparison task: The perspective of cognitive load. European Journal of Psychology of Education.



Maciejewski, W., & Star, J.R. (in press). Justifications for choices made in procedures. Educational Studies in Mathematics.


Ziegler, E., Edelsbrunner, P., & Star, J.R. (2019). Preventing interference: Reordering complexity in the learning of new concepts. Journal of Educational Psychology.,(2019)


Hästö, P., Tuomela, D., Palkki, R., & Star, J. R. (2019). Relationship between mathematical flexibility and success in national examinations. European Journal of Science and Mathematics Education 7(1), 1-13.


Richey, J., Andres-Bray, J., Mogessie, M., Scruggs, R., Andres, J., Star, J.R., Baker, R., & McLaren, B. (2019). More confusion and frustration, better learning: The impact of erroneous examples. Computers & Education, 139(1), 173-190.,(2019)

Wang, J., Liu, R., Star, J.R., Liu, Y., & Tong, H. (2019). The moderating effect of regulatory focus in the relationship between potential flexibility and practical flexibility. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 56, 218-227.,(2019)

Murray, E., Durkin, K., Chao, T., Star, J.R., & Vig, R. (2018). Exploring connections between content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and the opportunities to learn mathematics: Findings from the TEDS-M dataset. Mathematics Teacher Education and Development.,(2018)

Liu, R., Wang, J., Star, J.R., Zhen, R., Jiang, R., Fu, X. (2018). Turning potential flexibility into flexible performance: Moderating effect of self-efficacy and use of flexible cognition. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 646.,(2018)

Chen, J.A., Star, J.R., Dede, C., Tutwiler, M.S. (2018). Technology-rich activities: One type does not motivate all. Contemporary Educational Psychology.,(2018)

Joglar, N., Abánades, M., & Star, J.R. (2018, April). Flexibilidad matemática y resolución de ecuaciones lineales. UNO, 080.,(2018)

Star, J. R., & Verschaffel, L. (2017). Providing support for student sense making: Recommendations from cognitive science for the teaching of mathematics. In J. Cai (Ed.), Compendium for Research in Mathematics Education. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.,(2017)

Star, J.R. (2017). When and why replicated studies should be published. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 49(1), 98-103.,(2017)

Xu, L., Liu, R., Star, J.R., Wang, J., Liu, Y., Zhen, R. (2017). Measures of potential flexibility and practical flexibility in equation solving. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 1368.,(2017)

Kirschner, P., Verschaffel, L., Star, J.R., & Van Dooren, W. (2017). There is more variation within than across domains: An interview with Paul A. Kirschner about applying cognitive psychology-based instructional design principles in mathematics teaching and learning. ZDM Mathematics Education, 49, 637–643.,(2017)

Rittle-Johnson, B., Star, J.R., & Durkin, K. (2017). The power of comparison in mathematics instruction: Experimental evidence from classrooms. In D. Geary, D. Berch, R. Ochsendorf, & K. Mann Koepke (Eds.), Mathematical Cognition and Learning (Volume 3: Acquisition of Complex Arithmetic Skills and Higher-Order Mathematics Concepts) (pp. 273-295) . Cambridge, MA: Elsevier/Academic Press.,(2017)

Durkin, K., Star, J., Rittle-Johnson, B. (2017). Using comparison of multiple strategies in the mathematics classroom: Lesson learned and next steps. ZDM Mathematics Education, 49, 585-597.,(2017)

Maciejewski, W., & Star, J.R. (2016). Developing flexible procedural knowledge in undergraduate calculus. Research in Mathematics Education, 3, 299-316. doi: 10.1080/14794802.2016.1148626,(2016)

Star, J. R. (2016). Small steps forward: Improving mathematics instruction incrementally. Phi Delta Kappan, 97, 58-62. doi: 10.1177/0031721716641651,(2016)

Star, J.R., & Rittle-Johnson, B. (2016). Toward an educational psychology of mathematics education. In E. Anderman & L. Corno (Eds.), Handbook of Educational Psychology (3rd ed., pp. 257-268). New York: Taylor & Francis.,(2016)

Chao, T., Chen, J., Star, J.R., & Dede, C. (2016). Using digital resources for motivation and engagement in learning mathematics: Reflections from teachers and students. Digital Experiences in Mathematics Education, 2, 253–277.,(2016)

Star, J.R., & Pollack, C. (2015). Inhibitory control and mathematics learning: Definitional and operational considerations. ZDM - The International Journal on Mathematics Education, 47(5), 859-863. doi: 10.1007/s11858-015-0716-1,(2015)

Star, J.R., Pollack, C., Durkin, K., Rittle-Johnson, B., Lynch, K., Newton, K., & Gogolen, C. (2015). Learning from comparison in algebra. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 40, 41-54. doi:,(2015)

Rittle-Johnson, B., Schneider, M., & Star, J.R. (2015). Not a one-way street: Bi-directional relations between procedural and conceptual knowledge of mathematics. Educational Psychology Review, 27(4), 587-597. doi: 10.1007/s10648-015-9302-x,(2015)

Star, J.R., Newton, K., Pollack, C., Kokka, K., Rittle-Johnson, B., & Durkin, K. (2015). Student, teacher, and instructional characteristics related to students' gains in flexibility. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 41, 198-208. doi:,(2015)

Star, J. R., Caronongan, P., Foegen, A., Furgeson, J., Keating, B., Larson, M. R., Lyskawa, J., McCallum, W. G., Porath, J., & Zbiek, R. M. (2014). Teaching Strategies for Improving Algebra Knowledge in Middle and High School Students (NCEE 2014-4333). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE), Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.,(2014)

Lynch, K., & Star, J.R. (2014). Teachers' views about multiple strategies in middle and high school mathematics. Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 16(2), 85-108. doi: 10.1080/10986065.2014.889501.,(2014)

Lynch, K. & Star, J.R. (2014). Exploring teachers' implementation of comparison in Algebra I. Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 35, 144-163. doi:,(2014)

Star, J.R., Chen, J., Taylor, M., Durkin, K., Dede, C., & Chao, T. (2014). Evaluating technology-based strategies for enhancing motivation in mathematics. International Journal of STEM Education, 1:7. doi:10.1186/2196-7822-1-7.,(2014)

Lynch, K., & Star, J.R. (2014). Views of struggling students on instruction incorporating multiple strategies in Algebra I: An exploratory study. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 45(1), 6-18.,(2014)

Murray, E., & Star, J.R. (2013). What do secondary prospective mathematics teachers need to know? Content courses connecting secondary and tertiary mathematics. Notices of the American Mathematical Society, 60(10), 1297-1299.,(2013)

Star, J.R., & Kokka, K. (2013). Using strategic interruptions to effectively integrate whole class and small group instruction in mathematics. The Mathematics Educator (Singapore), 14 (1&2), 1-20.,(2013)

Star, J.R., & Stylianides, G.J. (2013). Procedural and conceptual knowledge: Exploring the gap between knowledge type and knowledge quality. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education, 13(2), 169-181.,(2013)

Newton, K.J., & Star, J.R. (2013). Exploring the nature and impact of model teaching with worked example pairs. Mathematics Teacher Educator, 2(1), 86-102.,(2013)

Rittle-Johnson, B., Star, J.R., & Durkin, K. (2012). Developing procedural flexibility: When should multiple procedures be introduced? British Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 436-455.,(2012)

Schneider, M., Rittle-Johnson, B., & Star, J.R. (2011). Relations between conceptual knowledge, procedural knowledge, and procedural flexibility in two samples differing in prior knowledge. Developmental Psychology, 47(6), 1525-1538.,(2011)

Yakes, C., & Star, J.R. (2011). Using comparison to develop teachers' flexibility in algebra. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 14, 175-191.,(2011)

Newton, K., Star, J.R., & Lynch, K. (2010). Exploring the development of flexibility in struggling algebra students. Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 12(4), 282-305.,(2010)

Star, J.R., Kenyon, M., Joiner, R., & Rittle-Johnson, B. (2010). Comparison helps students learn to be better estimators. Teaching Children Mathematics, 16(9), 557-563.,(2010)

Star, J.R., Kenyon, M., Joiner, R., & Rittle-Johnson, B. (2010). Comparing pays off! Mathematics Teacher, 103(8), 608-612.,(2010)

Rittle-Johnson, B., Star, J.R., & Durkin, K. (2009). The importance of prior knowledge when comparing examples: Impact on conceptual and procedural knowledge of equation solving. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101(4), 836-852.,(2009)

Star, J.R., & Newton, K.J. (2009). The nature and development of experts' strategy flexibility for solving equations. ZDM - The International Journal on Mathematics Education, 41, 557-567.,(2009)

Star, J.R., & Rittle-Johnson, B. (2009). Making algebra work: Instructional strategies that deepen student understanding, within and between representations. ERS Spectrum, 27(2), 11-18.,(2009)

Star, J.R., & Rittle-Johnson, B. (2009). It pays to compare: An experimental study on computational estimation. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 102, 408-426.,(2009)

Gersten, R., Beckmann, S., Clarke, B., Foegen, A., Marsh, L., Star, J.R., & Witzel, B. (2009). Assisting students struggling with mathematics: Response to intervention (RtI) for elementary and middle schools (NCEE 2009-4060). Washington, D.C.: National Center on Educational Research, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.,(2009)

Rittle-Johnson, B, & Star, J.R. (2009). Compared to what? The effects of different comparisons on conceptual knowledge and procedural flexibility for equation solving. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101(3), 529-544.,(2009)

Star, J.R., & Strickland, S.K. Learning to observe: Using video to improve preservice teachersÂ’ ability to notice. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 11, 107-125.,(2008)

Star, J.R., Smith, J., & Jansen, A. What do students notice as different between reform and traditional mathematics programs? Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 39(1), 9-32.,(2008)

Halpern, D., Aronson, J., Reimer, N. Simpkins, S., Star, J., & Wentzel, K. Encouraging girls in math and science (NCER 2007-2003). Washington, D.C.: National Center on Educational Research, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.,(2007)

Star, J.R. Foregrounding procedural knowledge. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 38(2), 132-135.,(2007)

Rittle-Johnson, B, & Star, J.R. Does comparing solution methods facilitate conceptual and procedural knowledge? An experimental study on learning to solve equations. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99(3), 561-574.,(2007)

Star, J.R., & Seifert, C. The development of flexibility in equation solving. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 31, 280-300.,(2006)

Star, J.R. Reconceptualizing procedural knowledge. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 36(5), 404-411.,(2005)


Editorial Board, Journal for Research in Mathematics Education,(2016-present)

Editorial Board, Journal of Educational Psychology,(2016-present)

Editorial Board, International Journal of STEM Education,(2013-present)

Co-Editor, Elementary School Journal,(2012-present)

Executive Editor, Cognition and Instruction,(2012-present)

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