WMU-led math innovation singled out by NSF for praise

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Photo of Dr. Christian .

Hirsch

KALAMAZOO—A mathematics software design and development effort based at Western Michigan University and funded by the National Science Foundation is being featured by the NSF as a transformative tool that levels the playing field for all students by providing ready access to mathematical and statistical software.

The Core Math Tools Project involved almost 10 years of cycles of research, development and classroom testing. The effort, which is expected to wrap up at the end of 2012, is being featured as an NSF Highlight, with information about the software distributed to media, other federal agencies and Congress as well as featured in NSF publications and other outlets.

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, nctm.org/coremathtools. 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.

Dr. Christian Hirsch, WMU professor of mathematics and longtime math curriculum innovator, is the principal investigator on the project. His former doctoral student, Dr. Brin Keller, who is now an associate professor at Michigan State University and responsible for the coding of the software, is the co-principal investigator.

Hirsch says the outcome of the work enables school districts to overcome long-standing financial constraints and provide equitable access to state-of-the art mathematics learning tools. Teachers and students can access and use the software online in mathematics classrooms, in school and local libraries, at home or at any other place that offers Internet access. The software can be freely downloaded to a user’s 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 Project

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.”