Theodore Chao

Headshot of Theodore Chao

Associate Professor, Department of Teaching and Learning

Program Area: Math, STEM

(614) 688-1671

Personal Website


Theodore Chao is an associate professor of Mathematics Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at The Ohio State University. His research agenda involves engaging all students and teachers regardless of social identity (race, gender, socioeconomic status, etc.) to fully see themselves as mathematical humans, particularly through technology. He uses digital storytelling and photovoice as vehicles for mathematics teachers and students of color to create narratives that connect their mathematics identities with their community and family identities. He also builds technology for children to share their mathematical strategies, opening up windows for peers, teachers, and family members to recognize the brilliance of their mathematical thinking. Chao has published in journals such as Investigations in Mathematics Learning, Race, Ethnicity, and Education, and Teaching Children Mathematics. Chao is currently principal investigator of a NSF CAREER research project exploring the ways children in urban emergent communities use Digital Mathematics Storytelling to share rich mathematical knowledge from their communities and families. Chao has taught courses such as Elementary Mathematics Methods, A Critical History of STEM Education, and Mobile App Development in STEM Education. Chao is currently an associate editor for Theory Into Practice (TIP), an editorial panel member of Mathematics Teacher Educator (MTE), a steering committee member of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (PME-NA), and an organizer for the Free Minds, Free People (FMFP) conference.


  • Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, Harvard University, 2014 
  • PhD Mathematics Education, The University of Texas at Austin, 2012 
  • MS Education, St. John’s University, 2004 
  • BS Computer Science Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, 2000 
  • BA Film and Media Studies, Johns Hopkins University, 2000

Research Interests

Research Summary

Chao’s research focuses on the use of photographs and video to open up spaces for mathematical discussion, storytelling and reflection. He has developed mobile apps that help children share and discuss their mathematical strategies with teachers. He also uses photovoice to explore how mathematics teachers struggle with the intersection of their ethnic and math teacher identities. All of Dr. Chao’s work revolves around critical pedagogy and equity through mathematics. 

Chao is a co-PI on an IES-funded project, S3: A Game-based 3rd-grade Math Curriculum, which explores the use of an online, game-based interface to help elementary teachers’ structure and orchestrate rich mathematical classroom discussions. He also is studying Asian American Mathematics Teacher Identity through the use of photovoice interviews, finding how gender, race, and the model minority myth affect how Asian American math teachers approach their practice with Kari Kokka of Harvard University. Chao is developing a smartphone app that helps mathematics teachers better listen to their students' mathematical thinking with professors from Montclair State University and Harvard University as well.

Selected Publications

  • Chao, T. (2014). Photo-elicitation/Photovoice interviews to study mathematics teacher identity. In J. Lo, K. R. Leatham, L. R. Van Zoest (Eds.), Research Trends in Mathematics Teacher Education. New York, NY: Springer.
  • Chao, T., Murray, E. C., Gutiérrez, R. (2014) Equity pedagogy research brief. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
  • Chao, T. (2013) Tips for Critical Math Teaching, In A. Miglietta, L. Smith, D. Stovall (Eds.), Chicago Grassroots Curriculum Taskforce Toolkit. Chicago, IL: Chicago Grassroots Curriculum Taskforce.
  • Chao, T., Murray, E. C. (2013). Teacher asynchronous noticing to foster students’ mathematical thinking. In A. C. Superfine, M. Martinez, G. Larnell, T. Stoelinga, D. B. Martin (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th annual meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education. Chicago: University of Illinois at Chicago.