Reports collected from urban and suburban schools.
Many success stories have vitalized The Expert Mathematician (TEM) project. One of the first middle school teachers to conduct a year-long pilot had not taught a learner-centered program.
His classroom had tables with computers and wires running all over, with occasional outages caused by tripping. Through a combination of direct teaching and students working at the computers daily, achievement, informally measured, was adequate. At a board meeting at year’s end, another math teacher commented, “I don’t understand what you were doing in your classroom, but all year I had students begging me to let them transfer to your class. Whatever you were doing, we should keep it in the curriculum.”
An informal lunchroom survey was taken several years after a TEM teacher left a small elementary school where TEM was still being taught. The question put to students: “What is your favorite activity?” Above all other activities, including recess, school plays and all academics, the answer kept coming up: “Logo.”
Two ninth grade remedial education teachers (one urban, one suburban) commented on some of their most at-risk students who seemed never to be able to learn anything. Their comments were similar: “It’s hard to explain exactly what they are learning, but they diligently work alone and definitely seem to be learning something. What’s striking is that it seems difficult, but they want to do the math.”
A sixth grade teacher wanted to stop TEM lessons before the end of the school year and students complained–they wanted to continue to the last day of school.
A sixth grade teacher in a different school with one computer in his classroom offered to allow his students to do TEM lessons after completing assigned work. Beginning in October, one began, soon attracting 4 others. The teacher commented: “These students were there before me in the morning, and stayed after school in the evening. They wouldn’t go out to recess. They flew through the whole 3 year program in 5 months. I was amazed by what they learned. I’ve never seen anything like this in 30 years of teaching.” Parents of middle school inner city students were informally surveyed about their children’s studies involving TEM. Most reported hearing many exciting stories from their children and strongly supported the program.
The teacher who conducted the scientific experiment reported elsewhere on this site, provided interesting quotes—among them: “In October, I gave my students a bathroom break and nobody moved. That’s the first time that’s happened to me in 6 years of teaching.” Since TEM was initially designed to remediate secondary students who had repeatedly failed an 8th grade exit test (over 5 years, 6 percentage points gained per trimester), success stories involving mathematically at-risk teens are pleasant to hear but not surprising. At the end of the TEM-SBR experiment, the teacher was astounded to find the names of the two highest gaining and total scoring students in any of his classes. It was two girls who had the lowest pretest scores and who were notoriously unhygienic and problematic. They had been suspended during the school year for using abusive language. They worked alone and would not accept help from the teacher. Yet, they excelled.
Two other small trials: Materials were given to high potential 4th graders and found to be highly challenging, but manageable and engaging. A 3rd grade teacher used selected activities through a school year for a masters degree thesis study. Parent volunteers provided reading support, but students could do many of the activities and the teacher was happy with outcomes.
A seventh grade suburban teacher: “My students are the best in geometry I’ve ever had.”
A veteran high school teacher and longtime NCTM member wrote a comprehensive review that was published in The Mathematics Teacher, a journal of the NCTM. The reviewer evaluated materials with students and read through it. Among his comments were that the “…mathematics are sound…and they align well with the NCTM Standards.” These are essential features for effective mathematics media in the United States.
He also found that the novel approach worked well with at-risk students, and recommended that it be used in the middle school curriculum.