Articles of Interest
Culver Students Discover Math by Nick Counts
“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” - Galileo Galilei
Although I have not been at Culver very long, I know that the mathematics department has been built upon greatness. The names of Al Donnely, Ray Jurgensen, and many other pioneers who came before us still echo through the Dicke Hall of Mathematics.
In the fall of 2004, Culver math instructors made a very positive move by instituting a progressive discovery-based curricula for all Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 courses. During the 2003-2004 school year, discovery-based textbooks were researched and selected. Jerald Murdock, an author of Discovering Algebra and Discovering Advanced Algebra, the books chosen for Algebra 1 and Algebra 2, was brought to campus to lead everyone through the transition that would soon be occurring. Although this was not an easy transition, it was one filled with excitement as teachers learned how to lead students through investigations by using use motion detectors, temperature probes, and other new devices. These investigations now allow our students to discover algebraic fundamentals while enhancing their critical thinking and problem solving skills.
Change is tough for the students. The new curricula was met with a fair amount of classroom grumbling. The students are now expected to understand and justify what they are doing in their guided investigations. Many of my students have stated- “This is a lot harder than the other math classes I’ve taken.” Students are no longer passive learners, but now take center stage. In a typical class period, the students are split up into groups of two or three, and they are given an investigation that has a series of steps they need to research and answer cooperatively. The investigation usually begins with some sort of an introduction or a hook that gets the students interested and gives them a foundation for the investigation. The groups are then set free to explore the questions that are posed to them in the investigation, while the teacher circulates through the classroom making sure that students are discovering the points they need to. The lesson is then completed by having a classroom discussion (usually led by one of the groups) to summarize findings.
This process gets to the core of the issue of what math really is. Although it is important for our students to be able to solve a variety of algebraic problems and demonstrate the same skills that we have expected of our students in the past, math is so much more. It is a problem solving process, a way of thinking, and an approach to learning. Learning this process is something that will benefit our students in any field they pursue.
As we build new math programs, the Culver mathematics department endeavors to keep our feet planted firmly in our rich history while we look forward to curricular developments in the future.