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Introduction and Implementation Strategies for the Interactive Mathematics Program: A Guide for Teacher-Leaders and Administrators

I. The Need for Change

Several factors - the growth of technology, the increased number of applications, the impact of computers, and the expansion of mathematics itself - have combined in the past quarter century to extend greatly both the scope and the application of the mathematical sciences. Together, these forces have created a revolution in the nature and role of mathematics - a revolution that must be reflected in the schools if our students are to be well prepared for tomorrow's world. Education reflecting only the mathematics of the distant past is no longer adequate for present needs.

Teacher Marilyn McIntosh consults with parents Debbie Webb and Bill Webb at an IMP Family night at Shasta High School.
Broad consensus exists among leaders in professional organizations, business, industry, and education that students need to become better prepared for the world they will inherit. Students need a higher level of mathematical, scientific, and technical literacy than they have ever needed in the past. As they enter the professions and trades and assume their roles as decision-making adults in a democratic society, demands are being placed on them that require problem-solving, communication, and reasoning skills that are not being provided in the typical high school program.

I began teaching secondary mathematics after my own children were older and in school themselves. I couldn't believe the mathematics curriculum I was to teach was exactly the same as the one I had studied when I was in high school. How could it not have changed when so much else had?

In fact, mathematics education is not even meeting the needs of the twentieth century, let alone those of the twenty-first. The high school curriculum has changed very little in the last century, despite the fact that society and its technological tools have changed. The voices of dissatisfaction come from different directions:

  • Changing the curriculum requires hard work. Teachers at an inservice for Year 3 prepare their group presentation.
    Students are "voting with their feet" against the mathematics education they have been receiving. Most take only the minimum required mathematics program, dropping out of mathematics as soon as possible.
  • Classroom teachers are dissatisfied with the kind of mathematics education their students have been experiencing, convinced that it is not serving their students well, even the best students.
  • Professors complain that students admitted to their colleges and universities are unable to think and reason mathematically, even though many of these students graduated from high school with top grades in advanced mathematics classes.
  • Leaders of business and industry lament the fact that they need to retrain so many of their employees because they lack basic mathematical problem-solving and communication skills.

The Interactive Mathematics Program is one response to a critical need for change in mathematics education.

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