The National Science Foundation is featuring a mathematics software design and development effort based at Western Michigan University. The Core Math Tools Project is a transformative tool that levels the playing field for all students by providing ready access to mathematical and statistical software. After almost 10 years of cycles of research, development and classroom testing, the effort is being featured as an NSF Highlight. Information regarding the software will be distributed to the media, other federal agencies, Congress and will be promoted in NSF publications and other outlets.
Dr. Christian Hirsch, WMU professor of mathematics and math curriculum innovator, is the principal investigator on the project. His former doctoral student, Dr. Brin Keller, associate professor at Michigan State University, coded the software and is the co-principal investigator. Other significant contributors to the design of Core Math Tools included WMU doctoral student, Nicole Fonger, and two WMU staff members of the Core-Plus Mathematics Project, James Laser and Beth Ritsema.
According to Hirsch the outcome of the work enables school districts to overcome long-standing financial constraints and provides equitable access to state-of-the art mathematics learning tools. Teachers and students can access the software in any location with internet access, including mathematics classrooms, school and local libraries, and in private homes. The software can be downloaded at no cost to a school or home computer and is self-updating whenever connected to the internet.
“The tools are already influencing the nature of mathematics teaching and learning and mathematics teacher preparation nationally,” Hirsch says. Core Math Tools is a suite of Java-based software tools that include general purpose tools—a spreadsheet, a computer algebra system (CAS), interactive (dynamic) geometry, data analysis, and simulation tools—together with more topic-focused Custom Apps and Advanced Apps for triangle congruence and similarity, data modeling, linear programming, 3D visualization, contour mapping, and more. Core Math Tools is unique in providing a single linked tool set that supports the full range of contemporary high school mathematics. The design promotes the important mathematical and scientific practice of selecting and strategically using software tools.
The project has produced a suite of interactive mathematical and statistical software tools that are now freely available at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics website. The free software and accompanying website content are designed to help high school teachers and their students meet the new Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.
Students use Core Math Tools
Core Math Tools evolved from decades of ongoing mathematics education innovation at WMU. Hirsch and his multi-university team of mathematics curriculum specialists have been developing and refining a problem-based, inquiry-oriented mathematics curriculum, Core-Plus Mathematics, since 1992. Their goal has been to develop and support implementation of an international-caliber high school mathematics program that will meet the nation’s current and future needs. The four-year textbook series is published by McGraw-Hill Education.
The Core-Plus Mathematics Project was also funded by the NSF. It has been designated by the U.S. Department of Education as an exemplary program and singled out by the Business Higher Ed Forum as “one that works and can make a difference in U.S. schools and can enhance U.S. competitiveness.”