Teaching mathematics to low achievers in secondary schools in the spirit of the projects SHAY and SHLAV

Leading team

Dr. Ronnie Karsenty


  • Head of the SHAY Curriculum Development Project (1991-2004): Prof. Abraham Arcavi, Weizmann Institute of Science
  • Head of the SHLAV project: Malka Brender, Davidson Institute of Science Education
  • Material Development and Advisory: Yonah Amir, Davidson Institute of Science Education
  • Qualitative Assessment of Teachers’ Professional Development: Miriam Carmeli, Weizmann Institute of Science


Dr. Karsenty’s research on low achievers in mathematics is rooted in the SHLAV project, which she founded in 2004 in the Davidson Institute of Science Education, and headed until 2012. The SHLAV project, from the Hebrew acronym for “improving mathematics learning”, aims at improving the quality of teaching in low-track secondary school mathematics classes. Quality teaching is viewed as the key to increasing the total number of students who pass the matriculation exam in mathematics and for promoting equity in the mathematical education offered to Israeli students. This is particularly true in the peripheral and low-income areas of Israel. The project has two main components:

  1. Using learning materials and teaching strategies that are tailored especially to the characteristics of low achieving high school students. These materials are based on the SHAY Curriculum, designed by a team from the Science Teaching Department of the Weizmann Institute, led by Prof. Abraham Arcavi.
  2. A unique model of support and personalized professional development for teachers, developed by Dr. Karsenty, which was successfully implemented and has gained both national and international attention.

These two components served as resources for studying low achievers’ capabilities and creative solutions, as well as the contribution of the developed model of support for teachers to the advancement of non-mathematical-oriented students.

Related articles

  • Karsenty, R. (2006). Advancing low achievers in secondary schools by using non-professional mathematics tutoring. In J. Novotná, H. Moraová, M. Krátká, & N. Stehlíková (Eds.), Proceedings of the 30th Conference of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (Vol. 3, pp. 409-416). Prague, Czech Republic: Charles University.
  • Karsenty, R., Arcavi, A., & Hadas, N. (2007). Exploring informal products of low achievers in mathematics. Journal of Mathematical Behavior.26, 156-177.
  • Karsenty, R. (2009). When at-risk students meet national exams in secondary mathematics. In M. Tzekaki, M. Kaldrimidou, & H. Sakonidis (Eds.), Proceedings of the 33rd Conference of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (Vol. 3, pp. 281-288). Thessaloniki, Greece: PME.
  • Karsenty, R. (2010a). Nonprofessional mathematics tutoring for low achieving students in secondary schools: A case study. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 74 (1), 1-21.
  • Karsenty, R. (2010b). Mathematical creativity and low achievers in secondary schools: Can the two meet? In M. Avotina, D. Bonka, H. Meissner, L. Ramana, L. Sheffield, & E. Velikova (Eds.), Abstracts of the 6th International Conference on Creativity in Mathematics and the Education of Gifted Students (pp. 50-51). Riga, Latvia: University of Latvia.
  • Karsenty, R. (2012). Supporting mathematics teachers of at-risk students: A model of personalized professional development. Monograph: Mathematics Teacher Retention, 93-100. California Mathematics Project, Los Angeles, CA.

Links to related projects: (in Hebrew)

The SHLAV Project Website