Daniel J. Brahier
Department of Educational Curriculum & Instruction
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, OH 43403
"In the last issue of Intersection Points,
we took up the topic of community involvement in the school change process.
Numerous RCML members emailed or verbalized their reactions to that
'Musings' article. Most people said that they were not surprised by
the comment that a parent doesn't want her son "to think until he gets to
algebra," noting that, in the minds of parents (and some teachers!), education
is so much easier when it's reduced to right-and-wrong, black-and-white.
Subsequently, I have encountered several conversations with other parents
that have helped me to continue reflecting on the issue. From the primary
grades to high schools, parents and community members continue to inquire,
"Why are you teaching it that way? It's not the way that I learned
it in school."
Last week, I attended a meeting at a
local high school that has recently converted from a traditional Algebra-Geometry
sequence to an integrated
secondary curriculum. Students take a common, three-year core of mathematics
courses that include algebra, geometry, statistics, and discrete mathematics
topics. The teachers in the department are "sold" on the approach and
believe that their students are learning the real-life mathematical problem-solving
and reasoning skills that will ensure their success in society. However,
a survey of recent graduates shows a 50-50 split on how students feel about
the curriculum. Some say it completely changed their image of mathematics
and turned them on to the subject area, while others stated that their friends
at other schools using a traditional curriculum were better served.
Meanwhile, parents in the school community do not understand the approach
and question anything different from what they did in school. Guidance
counselors who assist with completing college applications display the same
level of skepticism as the parents and are not convinced themselves that
the change was for the better. Consequently,
the school is experiencing a mini-crisis as a result of the growing pains
from being bold enough to say "no" to doing business as usual.
At a basketball game last week, the parent of a third grader
at a local school that has implemented an NSF-funded elementary curriculum
approached me and said, "I just wanted to thank you for what you've done
for our school. My son actually understands and enjoys math this year!"
She went on to explain that she works as a special needs teacher in several
different schools and is continually frustrated with being asked to help
children to "do 30-question worksheets when they don't understand what they're
Just as I was feeling reassured by that conversation, a
grandparent of another child in the same class cornered me after the game
and asked, "When are you going to have a class for the parents? I can't
help my granddaughter with her homework because she keeps saying, 'That's
not how we do it in school'?" He went on, however, to express that
he was pleasantly surprised that his granddaughter not only "knows" that
4 x 5 = 20 but can also picture and draw a 4 x 5 array to represent the multiplication
fact and can reorganize the array to show why 2 x 10 must have the same answer.
He admitted that there are a variety of ways to teach and learn multiplication
but expressed uneasiness because the approach being used in school was not
within his comfort zone. Clearly, the issue of helping the community
to see the vision continues to be an important issue.
What forms of community outreach are being used in your
area? Do you require graduate and undergraduates in mathematics education
to develop materials or plans for working with parents? If so, what
have you found to be useful in educating the community about the need for
reform and how they can help? Which part of the system deserves the
bulk of our efforts -- materials for students, preservice students, inservice
teachers, or community members? We are interested in any reactions
that you might have to this issue. Please take a minute to send a short
email comment to Daniel Brahier at
email@example.com. Reaction comments can be included in future
'Musings' column publications in Intersection Points.
We would like to hear from you! Take a moment
to drop an email to
Daniel Brahier at firstname.lastname@example.org
to continue this discussion into the next RCML newsletter.
E-mail reflections will be distributed to other electronic respondents without
delay, rather than waiting for the next newsletter.
RCML Home || RCML Officers ||
RCML History ||
RCML Founding Members||Past
Learning Problems In Mathematics ||
FOCUS Tables of Contents ||Wilson Memorial