Boston Public Schools

Boston, MA

Dr. Walter Stroup

We have set up a number of integrated model classrooms in two Boston Public Schools this school year. The schools we work with most directly in the project are two of the most challenged in the system. Statistically, the Maurice J. Tobin School located in the Mission Hill section of Roxbury services the most economically disadvantaged student population of any middle school in Boston; and the Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester is in the process of transforming itself after losing its accreditation in the spring of 1995. Clearly no one set of hands can service all the needs of the students at these sites, but the SimCalc Project in cooperation with Texas Instruments is working closely with committed local educators and community leaders to be playing a part in the transformation of the students' learning experience.

At the Tobin School we are working with someone who teachers full classes of sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade students. At the Burke High School we are working with all the teachers who work primarily with ninth-grade students. Included in this group are two 'regular-ed.' teachers, three 'special ed.' teachers, one bi-lingual education teacher, and two student teachers. In these very 'real' settings we look to develop a model that can play a significant role in national efforts at mathematics reform and classroom-based technology integration.

The technological model we have put in place in these schools includes each student being equipped with a hand-held Texas Instruments TI-83 graphing calculator. Each teacher also has available to her/him in the classroom a powerful desktop computer and overhead display system that serves as a vehicle for the all-class discussions and presentations of student work. This powerful computer either has or is currently in the process of having installed direct connections to the internet. The internet is viewed as a resource for new curriculum materials and a place to retrieve interesting data sets for the classroom analyses.

The classroom materials are developed so every students can work individually or in small groups on a series of activities or challenges. The questions and challenges are designed so there is no one right answer or approach and the multiplicity of student responses serves as a catalyst for the discussions and further analyses that follow. Using the powerful up front computer student work is drawn up to become the basis for the whole class discussion. The flexibility of the component-based nature of the MathWorlds software is essential to being able to create a wide range of learning experiences and challenges centered on the math of change and variation. We are working to develop the hardware and component-based software to improve the communication between the students' hand-held devices and the up front computer.

A substantial cutting-edge curriculum is being introduced in these schools. By building on big ideas and interconnecting mathematical strands we have found a way of bringing together important aspects of the traditional curriculum with the SimCalc Project's emphasis on having all students engage the math of change. Our goal in these schools has been to create a curriculum that addresses current needs even as it introduces to all students a substantial number of powerful ideas from calculus. We are closely coupling the current basics with what we have every reason to believe will be 'the basics' for living and working in the next century.