Aug. 18, 1994
Vol. 14, No. 2

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    Mathematics Project receives first Amoco Partner Award

    The University of Chicago School Mathematics Project has received the Amoco Foundation's first Amoco Partner Award in recognition of UCSMP's work in improving school mathematics for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

    UCSMP materials, which include textbooks and teacher-development packages, are designed to raise the level of U.S. students' performance in mathematics to that of their counterparts in other countries.

    Amoco has been a partner with UCSMP since the project was founded in 1983 and has provided it with $8.4 million in grants to date.

    "Amoco's support of the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project has led to significant advances in the teaching of mathematics at the elementary and secondary level," said H. Laurance Fuller, Amoco Corporation chairman and chief executive officer, in presenting the award at a ceremony in July. "This project has demonstrated what types of educational gains are possible when a long-term time frame is used. Amoco is very proud of its 11-year partnership with UCSMP."

    The project is largely an outgrowth of conversations between Keith McHenry (now deceased), then Amoco's vice president for research, and Izaak Wirszup, Professor Emeritus in Mathematics and now Director of UCSMP's Resource Development Component. Based on his research on the Soviet educational system, Wirszup had foretold a crisis in American mathematics and science education. McHenry learned of Wirszup's work through his son, a student in the College at the time. Through their conversations, McHenry and Wirszup conceived the idea of reforming mathematics education.

    Since its inception, and with the support of other foundations and corporations as well, UCSMP has been the largest university-based mathematics education project in the country. Between 2 million and 3 million students in approximately 3,000 school districts nationwide use its materials.

    As a result of the project, a complete secondary curriculum for grades 7 through 12 has been published by ScottForesman. Materials for kindergarten through 4th grade also have been published, and materials for grades 5 and 6 are in development. The elementary materials are published by Everyday Learning Corporation in Evanston.

    UCSMP has also published translations of outstanding foreign textbooks, including six hardcover translations of Japanese textbooks for grades 7 to 9 and Russian textbooks for grades 1 to 3.

    The goal of UCSMP is to upgrade school mathematics for the average student by bringing the real world into the classroom, with an emphasis on problem solving, applications and the use of available technology, said Zalman Usiskin, Professor in Education and Director of UCSMP.

    "Previously, math was taught almost as a code -- one that only the very bright or math-oriented students could decipher," he said. "Math is a language in every sense of the word. It is a way of describing, relating to and solving problems of everyday life."

    The project has been responsible for many innovations in mathematics instruction. For instance, the materials set greater expectations for students in the early grades, drawing on the actual capabilities of young children and eliminating excessive repetition and review. The project also introduces algebra earlier than has traditionally been done and provides a transitional course between elementary school mathematics and algebra. Geometry, algebra and some discrete mathematics appear in all secondary courses, and statistics and probability are integrated into the study of algebra and functions.

    The objectives and precedents set by UCSMP have influenced other mathematics projects and professional mathematics associations, including the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, which drew on insights from UCSMP in preparing its Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics in 1989.