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

Preparing for Implementation

Many steps must be taken before a single student begins the program. Much of the preparatory work involves educating all concerned about the scope and meaning of the changes involved in implementing this program. One good first step for everyone is to visit a school nearby that has already implemented the IMP curriculum, sit with students in IMP classrooms, and see how the program works.

Based on the experience of the many schools that have already implemented the program, IMP strongly recommends the preparatory work described below for various groups.

District administrators and school board members

District administrators and school board members should be aware of the mathematics reform going on throughout the United States and should understand how IMP fits into that reform movement. They also need to recognize the commitment of resources required to transform the mathematics classrooms in their district. Beyond the purchase of textbooks and related materials, this transformation requires significant support for the professional development of teachers.

Curriculum leaders and other leadership personnel

Curriculum leaders should be knowledgeable about the mathematics education changes being called for and be able to articulate them as representatives of the school community. They should be aware that IMP's pedagogical approach is based on sound research into the ways children learn.

Leaders within each school must be committed to the philosophy of the program and understand how it fits into the school's overall education efforts. In particular, student placement should be appropriate and should reflect the fact that IMP is a college preparatory program designed to replace the Algebra I - Geometry - Algebra II/Trigonometry - Precalculus sequence.

When the chair of the mathematics department and the person accustomed to teaching calculus are supportive of IMP, the message is conveyed, especially to parents, that this is a valid college preparatory mathematics curriculum. It is even better when these departmental leaders begin teaching IMP. Even though not everyone will begin at once, it is helpful if the entire mathematics department supports the program's implementation. Involvement of science teachers is also an important ingredient of success.

School counselors play a major role by informing students and parents about curricular changes, so it is essential that counselors at the high school and its feeder schools be knowledgeable about IMP and be able to communicate that IMP is a rigorous college preparatory mathematics program that is appropriate for college-bound students.

Mathematics teachers

A significant number of teachers in the mathematics department should be committed to the philosophy of the program and be willing to commit their personal efforts to bringing about change. The larger the network of IMP teachers who understand the IMP philosophy and support each other, the better the chance of success for the school. One of the best ways for teachers to understand what IMP is all about is for them to visit a school where the program is already in place. National and regional meetings of NCTM provide other opportunities for teachers to learn about IMP and about the larger movement of mathematics reform.

Implementation goes most smoothly if mathematics teachers have already used many of the pedagogical strategies that IMP recommends. For instance, it is helpful if teachers have previous classroom experience in which their students are

  • working collaboratively in groups
  • working on long-term, open-ended problems
  • using graphing calculators
  • being assessed based on a variety of criteria
  • writing about mathematics and the processes they are using
  • making presentations to the class about their reasoning and ideas

Some teachers are just beginning to make these changes in their own classrooms and may not be ready to implement an entirely new curriculum. To meet the needs of these groups, the Interactive Mathematics Program has developed a transition unit, Baker's Choice, which can be taught in traditional mathematics classes. Appendix D: Beginning the Change Process describes steps that schools can begin taking immediately to prepare for implementing the full program.

Parents and students

The decision to implement the IMP curriculum should involve parents and students. Parent-teacher organization meetings and back-to-school nights provide excellent forums for starting the conversation about the need for change. This discussion can build on the fact that the world is changing and that the mathematical expectations facing adults entering the twenty-first century will be different from what was required of their parents. It is important to stress that the new programs do not shortchange fundamentals, but rather go beyond rote learning to encourage a deep understanding of the meaning and uses of mathematics. Having parents reflect on their own, often negative, experiences with school mathematics can help them understand why change is required. An active experience using IMP materials can give them a vision of how positive and exciting a mathematics program can be.

In addition to the general community education that should precede change, school and district leaders must work specifically with eighth-grade students and their parents, familiarizing them with IMP so they can make informed choices about participation. This process should begin by early spring of the year before IMP teaching begins; it is one of the most important steps in the implementation process.

IMP schools report that it is especially important to involve parents who perceive that their students have been succeeding in the current system, since these parents are the ones most likely to resist change. Parents need to hear about the limitations of the traditional mathematics curriculum, especially its failure to teach students to reason and understand what they are doing with mathematics. If possible, bring in parents and students from schools where IMP has already been successful and have them talk about their experiences.

Once the program is functioning, it is important to provide opportunities for parents to see its success. Many schools offer family IMP nights, during which parents actually work on problems from the curriculum with their children.

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