Year-old math center aids teachers’ transition to Everyday MathematicsBy Steve Koppes
The numbers are adding up quickly for Everyday Mathematics, a kindergarten through sixth-grade curriculum first developed at the University in the 1980s by Max Bell, Professor Emeritus in Education and the Physical Sciences Division.
Everyday Mathematics is being taught to 2.5 million school children throughout the United States. That number will increase by approximately 900,000 over the next few years, as New York and Chicago adopt the curriculum for their elementary public schools.
Helping teachers implement the new curriculum and studying its impact on student performance in the two cities are priorities for the University’s year-old Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education.
“We’re interested in math education for all American children,” said Andy Isaacs, Center Co-Director. “If we do research and figure out what works and what doesn’t work, that will inform future generations of math education reformers.”
In January, New York City officials announced the adoption of Everyday Mathematics for all of the city’s K-5 public schools over the next two years. Then in March, the Chicago Public Schools system announced it would integrate the curriculum into about 200 of its elementary schools over the next several years.
“Right now we’re actively engaged as a matchmaker, trying to get a research project off the ground in New York and Chicago to evaluate the adoptions of Everyday Math in those two cities,” Isaacs said. “We don’t want to be formally involved because that would bias the research. But we’re using the center’s resources to try to identify people who would be interested in the research and help develop the proposal.”
The different approaches to the curriculum’s implementation in New York and Chicago make them appealing for a comparison study, Isaacs said.
“New York is mandating it across a thousand schools all at once. Chicago is taking a much more gradual approach,” he said.
The elements of Everyday Mathematics include problem solving in everyday situations, linking past experiences to new concepts, and solving problems using multiple strategies. The curriculum was designed to be integrated into schools one grade at a time.
“There are routines built in that kids get used to,” said James McBride, the center’s other Co-Director. But in New York, schools will implement the curriculum into grades K-5 at the same time. Older students will come to the material lacking the background that the curriculum was designed to build on.
“It’s going to be an overwhelming thing, even for a very good teacher and very good students,” McBride said. “We want very much to work with New York teachers and supervisors, and we are planning to make ourselves available to help them.”
The center was established in the Physical Sciences Division last May with $750,000 in royalties generated from Everyday Mathematics. The commercialization of the curriculum began in 1988, when the University’s Office of Technology and Intellectual Property (then known as Arch Development Corporation) launched and helped fund the Everyday Learning company.
The Tribune Company acquired Everyday Learning in 1995. Today it is a division of McGraw-Hill.
“Our biggest success historically and on a continuing basis has been the commercialization of the mathematics curriculum,” said Alan Thomas, the University’s Director of Technology Commercialization.
Although the Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education Center is relatively new, its work in elementary education research and development has long been associated with the University and its School Mathematics Project.
Everyday Mathematics was developed under the UCSMP umbrella beginning in the mid-1980s. For the past five years, a National Science Foundation grant has supported the project’s efforts to help schools implement the Everyday Mathematics curriculum. The NSF has renewed the grant for an additional year and a half.
The NSF also funded a tri-state student achievement study for which McBride served as chief statistician. The study, conducted by researchers affiliated with the Alternatives for Rebuilding Curricula Center in Lexington, Mass., encompassed 50,000 students in more than 750 schools in Massachusetts, Illinois and Washington.
McBride and his colleagues examined the impact of Everyday Mathematics and two other reform curricula that were developed with NSF support. The researchers combined survey data with data from state-mandated tests in the three states. Matching students by ethnicity and family income, the researchers compared the achievement of students studying the three reform curricula with students not using any of them.
The results showed that students in the NSF-funded curricula consistently outperformed the comparison students.
“Use of these curricula results in higher test scores,” the study report said.