From the Origin

From the Origin provides a forum for lively discussion of issues of importance to the mathematical community. The Michigan Section-MAA Newsletter solicits opinion pieces for publication in this column from anyone in the Michigan mathematical community. In addition, comments on pieces published in earlier issues are welcomed.

Items for From the Origin should be submitted to the editor by the beginning of October to be considered for inclusion in the December issue and by the beginning of February for the April issue. Main opinion pieces should be at most 1800 words long, and responses at most 400. The editors reserve the right to shorten responses, if necessary, in order to fit as many as possible within the available space.


by Roger Verhey (UM-Dearborn)

The Annual Meeting this past May included a strand focusing on building dialogue between high schools and colleges. This strand was in response to a one-day conference held last November in Lansing. Its theme was the reshaping of high school mathematics with the desire to build bridges between high school mathematics and college mathematics.

My goal as program planner and organizer of the November conference was to invite college mathematics teachers to hear from high school mathematics teachers who were teaching reform curricula what the curricula they were teaching looked like and tasted like. An important part of the conference was small groups consisting of high school and college teachers discussing the reform curricula. There were 56 college and 31 high school participants. At the end of the conference, the participants strongly recommended that the dialogue continue at the annual meetings of the Michigan Section-MAA and the MCTM.

The November conference focused on the significant changes that are taking place in many high school mathematics programs. These changes relate to what mathematics is being taught, how that mathematics is being taught, and how technology has impacted and directed these changes. Chuck Allan of the Michigan Department of Education discussed the national and state initiatives that speak to the direction of change and the implementation of a High School Proficiency Exam by the State. Mike Shelly and Cathy King of Andover High School in Bloomfield Hills presented the Core Plus Mathematics Program that their school piloted and implemented. (This past June Andover graduated its first students from this program.) Irene Besancon of Fordson High School in Dearborn presented the Integrated Mathematics Program Dearborn implemented starting in the ninth grade three years ago. Bruce Budzynski of Ludington High School presented the University of Chicago School Mathematics Program which his school implemented over five years ago. After lunch, David Smith (Duke University) addressed the issues of changes colleges need to consider in response to these reform curricula, and Chuck Vonder Embse (CMU) discussed the impact of graphing calculators, symbol manipulators, and dynamic geometry software on what is taught and how it is taught.

The Building Bridges strand at the annual meeting continued the dialogue of the November conference with Wade Ellis (West Valley College) and William Fitzgerald (MSU) giving keynotes on the issues of how are and should colleges be responding to the reshaping of high school mathematics. They included the content of college mathematics courses; the teaching, learning, and technology components of that content; and changes in admission requirements and placement exams. These issues were divided into two sessions. Each session began with a presentation by a keynoter. This was followed by comments and questions from a panel of respondents consisting of a high school teacher, a community college teacher, and a university teacher. Participants then discussed in small groups the issues raised by the keynoter and respondents. The session concluded with the small groups giving summary reports to the entire group.

The presentations and discussions were open, honest, and meaningful. Two aspects of the discussions were the sense of frustration of both the high school and college folks and the desire to dialogue. The reform curricula shift the focus of high school mathematics from computational skill and symbol manipulation to deeper conceptual understanding, and relate to Michigan's Curriculum Framework and its High School Proficiency Exam. Yet, the students who will soon be coming to the colleges from these programs will likely have their placement based on computational skill and symbol manipulation. The college folks were frustrated with the level of preparation of students coming into college mathematics courses and the number of students who needed remedial work.

The dialogue continued with a Building Bridges strand at the recent annual meeting of the Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Mary Lindquist (Columbia College, Georgia), a past president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, was a keynote speaker on the impact of the NCTM's 1989 Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics on mathematics education and the future direction of the Standards. NCTM is planning a new edition of the Standards to be published in the year 2000. Chris Hirsch (WMU) was the moderator of a panel of college teachers discussing placement exams at their colleges. The colleges represented were UM-Ann Arbor, Alma College, WMU, and MSU.

It is my hope to continue the dialogue. I would like to hear from college faculty the issues they would like to discuss with high school teachers at our annual meetings. My e-mail is

Editor's note: Not everyone is happy with Core Plus and similar programs. On October 28 the school boards of West Bloomfield and Bloomfield Hills held a joint public meeting, which drew media attention, to discuss the mathematics curriculum in these districts. After James Hersberger (Indiana-Purdue, Fort Wayne) presented the philosophy behind these approaches, frustrated parents voiced their concerns, and the mathematics faculties answered questions. We plan to include a different viewpoint in the Spring issue of the Newsletter.

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