Mary Kay Stein

Mary Kay Stein holds a joint appointment at the University of Pittsburgh as Professor of Learning Sciences and Policy and Senior Scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center.  Her research focuses on mathematics teaching and learning in classrooms and the ways in which policy and organizational conditions shape teachers’ practice. Stein’s most recent research examines how curricula can serve as a learning tool for teachers in large-scale improvement efforts.

Over the past several years, Dr. Stein has been a principal or co-principal investigator of a number of grants from both public (the National Science Foundation, the Institute for Educational Sciences) and private (Spencer, MacArthur) foundations. In 2011 she was invited to chair a full-day workshop on state-focused reform efforts in STEM Education sponsored by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences.  Dr. Stein has also given keynote addresses on the Common Core State Standards to several national organizations and has been active internationally, most recently in chairing the Study Group on Research on Teaching and Classroom Practice for the upcoming International Congress on Mathematics Education-13 in Hamburg, Germany in 2016.   In 2008, Dr. Stein was named Associate Director of the Learning Research and Development Center; in 2014, she was selected as a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association. 


Academic Title

Professor, SOE, U of Pitt

Sr. Scientist, LRDC


Other Titles

Associate Director for Education Research and Practice, LRDC

Chair, Learning Sciences and Policy Program


Contact Information

LRDC 828


Program Affiliations



Research Interests

Policy and teacher learning, 1996 – present

Examination of the role of policy, leadership, and organizations in educational reform in STEM.  In particular, I am attempting to combine insights gained in over a decade of work inside classrooms with analyses of the social and institutional policies and practices needed to support effective teaching and learning in mathematics and science.

Teachers as learners, 1994 – present

Examinationof the learning processes of teachers, particularly in relationship to the kinds of knowledge they need to teach high-demand curricula in mathematics and science.  Over the past decade, my study of teacher learning has shifted from teachers as individuals to teachers as members of school communities and has become informed by models of learning in social and organizational contexts.

Teaching and learning inside the mathematics classroom, 1986 – present

Intensive investigations of instructional practice and student learning in high-poverty elementary and middle school classrooms.  This line of work began with my post-doctoral fellowship (study of teaching and learning linear functions) and continued with my research in the QUASAR Project, a multi-year national mathematics reform project for which I designed and directed the classroom documentation component.




  • PhD, University of Pittsburgh, 1986
  • M.Ed. The Pennsylvania State University, 1976
  • B.S. The Pennsylvania State University, 1975


Time at University of Pittsburgh

Since 1986


Professional Experience

Director, The Learning Policy Center, University of Pittsburgh (2006 – present)

Associate Professor, Department of Administrative and Policy Studies, School of Education, University of Pittsburgh (1999 – 2005)

Research Scientist, Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh (1998 – 2005)

Research AssociateLearning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh (1989 – 1998)

Post Doctoral Fellow, Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh (1986 – 1989)


Recent Publications

Munter, C., Stein, M.K., & Smith, M.S. (in press). Dialogic and direct instruction: Two distinct models of mathematics instruction and the debate(s) surrounding them. Teachers College Press.

Kaufman, J., Stein, M.K., & Junker, B. (in press).  How district context influences the accuracy of teachers’ survey reports about their mathematics instruction.  Elementary School Journal.

Tekkumru Kisa, M.*, & Stein, M.K. (in press). Teachers’ learning to see STEM instruction in new ways: A foundation for maintaining cognitive demand.  American Educational Research Journal.

Stein, M.K., Kaufman, J. & Tekkumru Kisa, M.* (2013). Mathematics teacher development in the context of district managed curriculum. In L. Yeping & G. Lappan (Eds.) International Handbook of Research in Mathematics Curriculum.

Coburn, C. E., & Stein, M.K. (Editors) (2010). Research and practice in education: Building alliances, bridging the divide.  Lanham, MD:  Rowman & Littlefield.