The curriculum design is implemented in a secondary classroom setting in the US state where multi-race students are able to get their education and improve their level of knowledge. The teacher described the majority of her students in class as “disinterested” in mathematics and that there are distractions in learning mathematics. While her design is not explicit and lacked formal presentation and approval by the School Board, she has used it to address the minimal interest of the majority of her students. Mathematics has been considered as one of the most difficult subjects for the vast majority of students, and the favorite of a few.
This has made mathematics curriculum subject a challenge for many teachers who need to consider various factors to address needs of students and the expectations of schools in a proper way. Mathematics may improve its status on the consciousness of many individuals who shun from it upon knowing its practicality: everybody uses math in mixing recipe of their favorite dish, computation and payment of bills, balancing check books and credit cards, among other everyday activities.
The teacher, who developed the curriculum design, made a successful attempt to outline a variety of roles any teacher should perform. This is why one of the first steps to be taken in the curriculum design is to differentiate the ideas of teaching, designing, and researching (Clements, 2002; Ornstein et al, 2006) as each is a unique task that requires various skills and capabilities for a teacher.
However, in consideration of the challenges that teachers face in the classroom setting as well as expectations of institutions and stakeholders, these three tasks are rolled into one for a secondary school mathematics teacher. In order to be an effective teacher, one has to address a personality of learners, design the curriculum to accommodate learning of the majority of the class, and meet the standards set by the stakeholders. The teacher observed that “for many students, there is more to life than memorizing complicated formulas and solving un-realistic numerical problems,” (Personal Communication, 2010).
The design environment was focused on improving the results within students of a particular group. The initial curriculum began when a classroom teacher promote tests to define the level of student knowledge as well as students’ desire to participate in the activities developed at classes. There were several types of assignments for students to deal with, and teacher evaluated the conditions under which student study the material and organize the curriculum the way it met both, tutor’s and students’ expectations. Formative assessment was suggested to be used in this curriculum (Personal Communication, 2010).
The teacher has outlined a checklist of possible outcomes and classroom experiences with learners that shall indicate the new curriculum effect on students. Among those in her checklist includes expectation of increased participation in all activities and increased attendance. “I am doubtful about increased rating in examinations because I am still in the development stage of this experiment,” the teacher admitted. However, the teacher has indicated early positive outcomes.
“Since I have started including history in my mathematics discussion, interest has grown. It used to be that attention of the majority of students was divided, if there was any at all. But when I started mentioning something like the origin of the number symbols, or how the Chinese uses the abacus, the majority become interested. It always worked with other topics about math such as discussion of their daily activities that has something to do with mathematical computations,” (Personal Communication, 2010).
The curriculum design under consideration pursues several significant goals. The activities chosen aim at making the subject of mathematics interesting for a larger group of students with various ethnicities, evoking warmer perception as a practical curriculum, and improving learning experiences and outcomes (Personal Communication, 2010).
Problems with mathematics have been identified to induce feelings of anxiety, helplessness, fear and even guilt in many students (Cobden, 2003). US standards dictate that instructional programs must promote learning of mathematics that includes people with disabilities, those belonging to minority ethnic groups, and all underrepresented groups (Dinkins, 1996). Nelson et al (1993) suggested that multiculturalism is encouraged in discussion of history. This can be traced on the extensive use of Pascal’s triangle in ancient China, use of various shapes in design such as the pyramid of Egypt, the popular Arabic numerals, among others.
Educational philosophy was properly reflected in the chosen curriculum. With its help, students were able to develop their skills as well as contributed the development of the discipline. In the curriculum deign, some attention is paid to the standards which are set for the chosen state and the chosen institution. The Pennsylvania Department of Education acknowledged that academic standards for each state is unique, “meaning that students across the country are learning at different levels,” (PDE, 2010, P 2).
Its goal in Math and English that also becomes the goal of a design is to raise academic expectations with the leading initiative of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA). This will be achieved through “research and evidence-based, aligned with college and work expectations, include rigorous content and skills and are internationally benchmarked” (PDE, 2010, P 3).
The incorporation of history in her curriculum or provision of mathematical ideas in historical context is based on Bidwell’s idea (1993) that makes it necessary to “humanize your classroom with the history of mathematics.” The teacher has explored on history, and mathematics as its integral part. Her curriculum has been peppered with discussion of topics starting from Plato’s quadrivium which evolved to be incorporated in Europe’s classical education.
Discussion proceeds with the Renaissance period when there was an observed waning of interest on mathematics due to unseen economic relevance. Interest in the United Kingdom revived at the University of Aberdeen in 1613 through the introduction of a Mathematics Chair. The industrial revolution and urban lifestyle required mathematics skills so that mathematics in the public education system was included (Strogatz, 2009).
In cognitive learning theory, economic reason seems to be one of the strongest factors on solidifying mathematics education. In the United States of America, upgrading of mathematics curriculum was set through the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics or NTCM standards. It is also noted that mathematics is closely linked with the sciences as a concise and internationally understood through certain manners.
In the UK, BERA (1999) noted the curricula evolved to encompass mathematics education with notable progression as “2 of the 116 pages of the Framework Examples for Years 4, 5 and 6 are headed ‘real life problems’, and even if pages devoted to problems on time, measures and money are included, the total is still less than 10%. (And as noted previously, most of these are artificial word problems rather than genuine applications),” (BERA, 1999, p 3). Economic competition has provided an outline for the internationalization of education (Gjone, 2010).
Likewise, information and communication technologies, has helped to shape the mathematics curriculum, and educators used them to support their learners’ advantage (Gjone, 2010). Debate about incorporating knowledge in mathematics through inclusion of history in order to kindle interest as well as provide the more human aspect of the subject has been forwarded and seen to be promising (Hodgen, 2003). Mathematics teaching and learning are seen as intuitive, emotional, and complex activity. It should be enjoyed despite the difficulties to fully appreciate its importance (Hodgen, 2003).
Mathematics, as an unpopular curriculum subject, has been proposed to root from the notion that many of class topics and discussions on mathematics are detached from reality. By including human experience of mathematics, in this manner through incorporation of history, teachers will lessen the cold impact of its nature on students. The expected major outcome of the curriculum design under consideration was not only knowledge-centered because much attention was paid to students’ skills and possibilities to develop a kind of interest to the activities performed. This understanding should serve as a guide and principle among educators and policy-makers in order to come up with possible solutions that will make the majority of students appreciate mathematics.
Mathematics and other curriculum subjects should be treated as a holistic approach towards learned students and not merely a tool for economic competitiveness or economic supremacy. Sustenance of interest should be consistent and not just an anecdotal approach in order to fully establish true interests of students and tutors.
British Educational Research Association (BERA). 1999. Values behind the National Numeracy Strategy. Paper presented as part of The Values of Subject Knowledge.
Bidwell, J. (1993, September). Humanize your classroom with the history of mathematics. The Mathematics Teacher, 86 (6). Pp. 461 – 464.
Clements, D. H. 2002. Linking research and curriculum development. In L. D. English (Ed.), Handbook of international research in mathematics education (pp. 599–629). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Dinkins, P. 1996. Multicultural Teaching Strategies for Simplifying Mathematical Concepts and Principles. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Southern University.
Gjone, G. 2010. Research on curriculum development in mathematics. Web.
Hodgen, Jeremy. 2003. Recent UK research into prospective primary teachers’ mathematics subject knowledge: A response.’ In Williams, J. (Ed.) Proceedings of the British Society for Research into Learning Mathematics 23 (3).
Nelson, D, Gheverghese, J. & Williams, J. 1993. Multicultural Mathematics. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Ornstein, A. C. Pajak, E. F., Ornstein, S.B. 2006. Contemporary Issues in Curriculum 4th Edition. Allyn & Bacon.
Pennsylvania Department of Education. 2010. STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION. Web.
Strogatz, Steven Henry. 2009. The Calculus of Friendship: what a teacher and a student learned about life while corresponding about math. Princeton University Press, 2009.