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Resources: Especially for Parents
Letter to Parents from a University Professor
One focus of our project is to keep parents and other members of the school community informed about the value of the IMP curriculum in preparing students to engage in real mathematics. Lew Romagnano, Professor of Mathematical Sciences, shares the following letter with parents.
Mathematics is the search for patterns and relationships. It is the development of tools and procedures for tackling quantitative and spatial problems. It is summarizing, drawing conclusions from, and inferring from large and diverse piles of data. It is the only subject in which something can be proved to be true, as part of a system of systematically developed prior truths.
If this description of mathematics is surprising to you, I am not surprised. But I am saddened by the fact that your years of experience as a student in typical mathematics classes did not give you a chance to engage in this creative and dynamic discipline.
What the teachers at [your school] are doing by offering the Connected Mathematics Program in the middle school and the Interactive Mathematics Program at the high school is giving your children the opportunity to do real mathematics, and to do it in ways that make the most sense given what we know about how children learn.
I could not be more supportive of their efforts. I have had enough experience with successful mathematics studentsstudents who did well enough in mathematics and liked it enough to choose to major in it in collegewho have had little or no experience with the discipline I described above. I want students at my school who have the kinds of experiences your children will be provided if they take CMP and IMP.
The teachers at [your school] need more from you parents than your acquiescence. They need your active support for their efforts. Teaching mathematics the way they propose is much more difficult than simply showing students techniques for solving certain types of problems and having the students practice them. They will be putting in many hours outside of class, collaborating with each other and with others around Colorado undertaking similar efforts, all to provide an authentic mathematics experience for your children. You need to be aware of the high level of professionalism they maintain.
And for students, learning why as well as how, explaining and justifying their own thinking and the thinking of others, is much more of a challenge. Your children might not like this challenge at first. They may think the rules have been changed on them. In fact, they have. However, the old rules applied to a game that no more represented real mathematics than vocabulary lists and sentence diagramming would represent true literacy. You need to support the efforts of your children, not by doing their homework for them but by encouraging their engagement in the tasks set by their teachers.
I am much impressed by, and grateful for, the commitment of [your school] faculty to the mathematics program they have begun to put together, and I support their work enthusiastically. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Lew Romagnano, Ph.D., Professor of Mathematical Sciences