The Interactive Mathematics Program (IMP) is a growing collaboration of mathematicians, teacher-educators, and teachers who have been working together since 1989 on both curriculum development and professional development for teachers. With the support of the National Science Foundation, IMP has created a four-year program of problem-based mathematics that replaces the traditional Algebra I-Geometry-Algebra II/Trigonometry-Precalculus sequence and that is designed to exemplify the curriculum reform called for in the Curriculum and Evaluation Standards of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).
The IMP curriculum integrates traditional material with additional topics recommended by the NCTM Standards, such as statistics, probability, curve fitting, and matrix algebra. IMP units are generally structured around a complex central problem. Although each unit has a specific mathematical focus, other topics are brought in as needed to solve the central problem, rather than narrowly restricting the mathematical content. Ideas that are developed in one unit are usually revisited and deepened in one or more later units.
The IMP curriculum has been thoroughly field-tested and enthusiastically received by hundreds of classroom teachers around the country. Their enthusiasm is based on the success they have seen in their own classrooms with their own students. These informal observations are backed by more formal evaluations.
Dr Norman Webb, of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, has done several studies comparing the performance of students using the IMP curriculum with the performance of students in traditional programs. For instance, Dr Webb has found that IMP students do as well as students in traditional mathematics classes on standardized tests such as the SAT. This is especially significant because IMP students spend about 25 per cent of their time studying topics that are not covered on these tests. To measure IMP students achievement in these other areas, Dr Webb conducted three separate studies involving students at different grade levels and in different locations. The three tests used in these studies involved statistics, quantitative reasoning, and general problem-solving. In all three cases, the IMP students outperformed their counterparts in traditional programs by a statistically significant margin, even though the two groups began with equivalent scores on eighth-grade standardized tests.