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Queries and Replies

Replies to Query:


Teacher Buy-In to Connected Mathematics Program

Reply 1:

Excerpt from: "Consciousness Levels and Political Relations as Determinants of Sustainable Mathematics Reform", by F. Joseph Merlino, presented at The Second Virtual Conference on Sustainability of Sytemic Reform, May 2002. So we have the strange loop situation where a high school math teacher who is resistant to reform speaks to parents about his fears that the new NSF sponsored high school math curriculum that the district adopted will not prepare students for college. Articles he has downloaded from a web site apparently support this fear. Rumors he has heard where other districts have dropped this reform curriculum seem to confirm them. Parents in turn spread the news within their own community networks. One such parent is an elected school board member. This school board member, who is the chair of the school board's education committee, has a child in the traditional honors program. She schedules a hearing about this new curriculum and invites parents and local press to attend. Several parents express their concerns and fears at the next board curriculum committee and claim this curriculum harms students, citing its sensational failures according to the statement of several university mathematicians. The reporter writes an article in the local weekly quoting the parents. The superintendent, who gave the math department a forced choice of adopting one of two curriculums, receives numerous phone calls from angry parents now wanting a choice of the traditional curriculum. He is now in a dilemma. To not give parents a choice threatens the entire new program. But to allow the honors parents to choose their curriculum undermines the claim that the new curriculum is for all student and instead sends the message it is only for the "lower tracks," plus it elevates the parents of honors students to preferred status among other parents. In this case, sustainability has little to do with the availability of financial resources. It is not a matter of the school board inserting a line item to continue training teachers in this new program after the LSC funds run out. It is, instead, a political issue grounded in the level of consciousness about the goals and epistemology of learning mathematics explicitly or implicitly harbored by each constituent arrayed along this strange loop of relations within this educational system. It has been often said that all the stakeholders of the system must share a common vision for reform to take hold. While this is true, it begs the question about what is the source of this vision. Achieving such a shared vision requires more than agreement about rhetoric. More fundamentally, it presumes a common set of shared experiences from which the meaning of that vision emanates. Perhaps the prime reason for the enduring stability of our 20th century educational system is that by the end of the century nearly everyone within this strange loop has experienced traditional, lecture style, textbook driven schooling. For many school board members, especially more senior ones, the most salient feature of their mathematical education was memorizing their multiplication tables.


F Joseph Merlino, 6/11/2002

Reply 2:

Public Engagement: Addressing the political, cultural and constraining factors influencing math reform Panel presentation by Carol Fry Bohlin, Joseph Merlino, and Bill Frascela, presented at the Second Virtual Conference on Sustainability of Local Systemic Change, May 2002.


anonymous, 6/11/2002

Reply 3:

One Teacher's Response to the Connected Mathematics Program To read the full text of this article, go to "Decentralizing authority has been an issue for teachers in my department. It is difficult for many teachers after being the focus of lessons for years and years to simply turn their classrooms into one that is totally student centered. Although most are getting better at it as time goes on, some still want to try and take a constructivist lesson and turn it into a lesson where students take some notes and then complete an activity. To combat this, my district mandated from the beginning of the year, that teachers may not supplement the program with any other worksheets without approval first. Although this takes an aggressive and sometimes unpopular stand on the issue, many feel that for the program to be a success, it has to be implemented in its true, original form, at least the first time through. I still have noticed teachers trying to put their own slants on lessons as this type of teaching is so different from what they have done before. Some do not trust that the program will make the "connections" it guarantees. I believe this fear and anxiety will diminish with further inservicing as the teachers understand what the 7th and 8th grade curriculums entail and they realize how it does connect with the 6th grade program. Personally, I have enjoyed the change as since the beginning of my career, I have tried to implement similar activities into the traditional curriuculums, although my efforts were sporadic. Connected Math incorporates similar activities to what I tried to do, however on a daily basis."


F Joseph Merlino, 6/11/2002