Saturday, September 23, 2017

Designing Curriculum that Students Would Love

Over the past twenty-five years, we have learned that standards alone—no matter their origins, authorship, or the process by which they are developed—will not realize the goal of high levels of mathematical understanding by all students. More is needed than standards. For that reason, NCTM has developed Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All, the next in its line of landmark publications guiding mathematics education into the future.
-Principals to Actions (preface)
As I review the NCTM Orlando conference list of sessions (details in my next blog), I’m reminded again that technology plays a "secondary" role in the scheme of all things NCTM. The main thrust is teaching and learning - mostly without technology. Principles to Actions (PTA) devotes 53 pages to T & L with very little mention of technology. Technology and Tools (which include manipulatives) gets 11 pages of cover. But there is very little to offer in the way of examples of how technology plays a role in teaching and learning. As in your typical standards the details of how best to use technology is left to the teacher. I was promised that the new NCTM’s Taking Action series would show how to implement effective math teaching practices. I got a copy of Taking Action: Implementing Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices (Grades 6-8) hoping that there would be good examples of using technology in the classroom. But alas it’s a rehash of  PTA with very few ideas about using technology in the classroom.

What makes this all depressing is that math achievement has not changed much since forever. So what would make a major difference?  If only the curriculum was designed with children’s interests in mind. A few textbooks have made an effort in this direction. Harold Jacobs' books and EDC’s Transition to Algebra come to mind, but they are in the minority. Textbooks should be books that children actually want to read and technology is the best platform to make that happen. Lessons should include games, puzzles, challenges and projects that will excite students. They should be in the mainstream if we ever want to engage students in math in a powerful way. This won’t happen as long as math education remains in the custody of most textbook companies that are unwilling to experiment (take risks) with their products.
Next April CLIME will be celebrating its 30th anniversary and I will be stepping down as president and hope that someone will take my place to continue to lobby NCTM to promote powerful uses of technology in math education. Technology is our best hope to break the cycle of continued failure particularly with our underachieving students. What it will take is something similar to an Apollo-like project that Keith Devlin encourages where motivation via video games play a central role in math learning.

Please let me know if you are interested in leading CLIME to next level wherever that goes. I will continue to play a support role (e.g. supporting the CLIME blog).

We will be holding a CLIME get together in Washington to celebrate the 30 years of CLIME participation as an affiliate group of NCTM. More details will follow.
CLIME Blog #215