Math Institute Helps Schools Implement New Curriculum

Math Institute Helps Schools Implement New Curriculum

Hands-on effort involves 150 teachers in six communities

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

The Mathematics Institute is helping 150 middle school teachers in six Massachusetts communities implement a new math curriculum by showing them how it works.

Through the Partnerships Promoting Student Achievement in Mathematics program, the institute offered week-long workshops to assist the teachers in understanding the new curriculum, and will follow up during this school year with site visits and discussion groups.

The program, funded by Raytheon Corp. and the Noyce Foundation, is designed to promote involvement from parents and is attuned to both urban and suburban families.

Institute Assistant Director Prof. Margaret Kenney (Mathematics), who is heading the project, said the PPSAM project represents a new direction for the institute, and for professional development in general. Institute Professional Researcher Anne Collins is the project's principal investigator.

"You can write all the textbooks in the world," she explained, "but when you implement reform at the grass-roots level, you have to be out there, walking the teachers through it. Anne has been working hard to model these lessons in the classroom, because that is the most effective way to accomplish the task."

The PPSAM project targets schools in Andover, Fall River, Holyoke, Lawrence, Marlborough and Sudbury, which are among the Massachusetts communities implementing the Connected Mathematics Program, a new curriculum designed to develop mathematical concepts in depth through problem-solving.

PPSAM focuses on the new curriculum's algebra and geometry sections, and helping teachers develop an understanding of the content, said Collins. She coordinated and provided summer teacher training sessions, including a component which paired them with students experiencing difficulty in mathematics. Collins is visiting classrooms in the participating schools, and organizing study groups for the teachers.

"This kind of support is what will help make the implementation work," said Collins. "Teachers are being asked to make the transition to a more inquiry-based approach."

In addition, the project is sponsoring regular lunch-hour parental information meetings, Collins said. They receive instruction in selected chapters of the units their children are studying, and have the opportunity to become familiar with the strategies and concepts used through CMP.

"It's necessary to educate parents in the new basic facts necessary to provide their children with the skills necessary for success in the 21st century," said Collins. "This is based on statistical information that says 80 percent of the jobs in which these young children will eventually be employed have yet to be invented."

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