Dr. Powell’s research interests focus in the following areas where he has published: writing and mathematics learning; ethnomathematics; development of mathematical ideas, reasoning, and heuristics; teacher professional development in the mathematics for teaching; subordination of teaching to learning in mathematics; and collaborative problem solving in mathematics with technology.
At present, he directs the Research Group on Communication, Technology, and Mathematics Learning that is engaged in an investigative and instructional project, called eMath. To fund his collaborative research, Dr. Powell has garnered funding from local, national, and international agencies.
Dr. Powell is the co-author with Beatrice Lumpkin of Math: A Rich Heritage (1995); co-editor and co-author with Marilyn Frankenstein of Ethnomathematics Challenging Eurocentrism in Mathematics Education (1997); and co-author with Marcelo A. Bairral of A Escrita e o Pensamento Matemático: Interações e Potencialidades [Writing and Mathematical Thinking: Interactions and Potentialities] (2006); co-editor with Carolyn Maher and Elizabeth Uptegrove of Combinatorics and Reasoning: Representations, Justifying and Building Isomorphisms (2011); co-author with Brian Greer, Swapna Mukhopadhyay, and Sharon Nelson-Barber Culturally Responsive Mathematics Education (2009). Dr. Powell is currently on the editorial board of the Journal of Mathematical Behavior; Boletim GEPEM: O Boletim do Grupo de Estudos e Pesquisas em Educação Matemática [The Bulletin of the Study and Research Group in Mathematics Education, published in Brazil]; and BOLEMA: O Boletim de Educação Matemática [BOLEMA: The Bulletin of Mathematics Education, published in Brazil].
He is the past vice president of the International Study Group for Ethnomathematics and, with Marilyn Frankenstein and John Volmink, co-founder and co-editor of the Critical Mathematics Educator Newsletter. Moreover, he has forged international collaborations between mathematics educators at Rutgers University and those in the Southern Hemisphere—in Mozambique, South Africa, and Brazil—and in the Caribbean—in Haiti.
In Haiti, he created an NGO, Elevating Learning above Teaching (ELAT), to support professional development projects for teachers of elementary schools, focused on the materials and pedagogy developed by the Egyptian-born psychologist and mathematician, Caleb Gattegno.
In the United States, Dr. Powell works to further Gattegno’s ideas on the subordination of teaching to learning. In collaboration with a small group of other educators, in 2003, he co-founded the Bronx Charter School for Better Learning (BCSBL), where Gattegno’s approach to the teaching of reading, world languages, social studies, science, and mathematics are practiced and where he conducts professional development workshops in mathematics for teachers. He also wrote the mathematics curriculum for the BCSBL’s charter from the State University of New York.