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Karen C. Fuson

Karen C. Fuson

  • Professor Emeritus

Research Interests

Mathematics teaching and learning; cognitive development; design of teaching/learning activities.


Karen Fuson is a mathematics educator and cognitive scientist whose research focuses on children’s mathematical understanding and the classroom conditions that can facilitate such understanding. Her extensive research has indentified developmental or experiential progressions in children’s understanding of various mathematical domains from PK through Grade 6. She was a member of the National Research Council (NRC) Committee that wrote Adding It Up and the NRC Committee that wrote Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths Toward Excellence and Equity. She wrote the chapter on whole numbers for the NCTM Research Companion to the 2000 Standards and the introductory chapter for the NRC book How Students Learn: Mathematics in the Classroom.  Professor Fuson is the author of the K-6 math program Math Expressions based on research in the NRC reports and on aspects of international math programsand published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  She worked on the Common Core State Standards-Math, the learning progressions for these standards, and the PARCC and Smarter Balance tests.

The titles listed under Projects are links for webcasts Karen Fuson developed to explain the CCSS-Math and show visual supports for student understanding. The examples come from my research-based Kindergarten to Grade 6 math program Math Expressions published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Visual supports are very important in the CCSS-Math, so these can help teachers and other educators or parents understand the CCSS-Math and how students can be learning in the classroom. You can move around within a webcast by clicking on the slide titles on the left.


  • PhD, Mathematics and learning; cognitive development, University of Chicago, 1972
  • MAT, Mathematics, University of Chicago, 1967
  • BA, Mathematics, Oberlin College, 1965

Selected Publications

Hufferd-Ackles, K., Fuson, K. C., & Sherin, M. G. (2015). Describing levels and components of a Math-Talk Learning Community in E. A. Silver & P. A. Kenney (Eds.), More lessons learned from research: Volume 1: Useful and usable research related to core mathematical practices  (pp. 125-134). NCTM(Download )

Fuson, K. C., Murata, A., Abrahamson, D. (2014). Using learning path research to balance mathematics education: Teaching/learning for understanding and fluency in R. Cohen Kadosh & A. Dowker (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Numerical Cognition  (pp. 1036-1054). Oxford University Press.

Fuson, K. C., & Li, Y. (2014). Learning paths and learning supports for conceptual addition and subtraction in the US Common Core State Standards and in the Chinese Standards in Y. Li & G. Lappan (Eds.), Mathematics Curriculum in School Education (pp. 541-558). Springer.

Fuson, K. C. & Beckmann, S. (2012). Standard algorithms in the Common Core State Standards. National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics Journal of Mathematics Education Leadership: 14 (2), 14-30.

Fuson, K. C. (2009). Avoiding misinterpretations of Piaget and Vygotsky: Mathematical teaching without learning, learning without teaching, or helpful learning-path teaching?. Cognitive Development,: 24, 343-361.

Fuson, K. C. (2009). Mathematics in R. A. Shweder et al. (Eds.), The Child: An encyclopedic companion (pp. 596-7). University of Chicago Press.

Fuson, K. C. & Murata, A. (2007). Integrating NRC principles and the NCTM Process Standards to form a Class Learning Path Model that individualizes within whole-class activities. National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics Journal of Mathematics Education Leadership, 10 (1: 10 (1), 72-91.

Fuson, K. C., Kalchman, M., & Bransford, J. D. (2005). Mathematical understanding: An introduction in M. S. Donovan and J. D. Bransford (Eds.), How students learn: History, math, and science in the classroom (pp. 217-256). National Academy Press.

Fuson, K. C. (2003). Developing mathematical power in whole number operations in J. Kilpatrick, W. G. Martin, & D. Schifter (Eds.), A research companion to principles and standards for school mathematics (pp. 68-94). National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Fuson, K. C. (1992). Research on whole number addition and subtraction in Grouws, D. (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Mathematics Teaching and Learning  (pp. 243-275). New York: Macmillan & Co.