The Math Forum
15 August 1996

Grant Proposal

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VI. What We Will Do

A. Community Building

Active communities can play a prominent role in the development of Internet math resources and the promotion of educational reform. Well-focused interactions with high-quality input quickly lead to substantive growth because of the ease with which these interactions can be sustained and archived. The Math Forum effort will concentrate over the next three years on establishing online communities built around activities already under way. In addition to being the host for communications venues associated with each project, our contributions will build a critical mass, broaden participation, infuse resources and facilitate interactions to meet emerging needs, and improve the ease with which our partners and users can create and manage media-rich public forums.(15)

Building on what exists. The projects described in more detail below were selected in part because they form a representative range of focal points around which to form online communities. These include curriculum development and publishing, mentoring of both students and teachers, topic-specific resource area centers, challenge problem programs, opinion forums, teacher-generated online lessons and units, schools and school districts, summer teacher programs, professional certification and online courses, pre- service training, Internet training, and professional organizations. In the first year and a half we will focus on creating the online environment for these projects. During the second year we will identify mechanisms and contexts in which community is thriving and will attempt to apply and disseminate those strategies elsewhere. In the third year we will look to integrate new Internet technologies that can help the different communities support and enrich each other by making the separate conversations and activities more seamlessly connected when they are addressing related topics.

Enriching the medium. Standard e-mail and Usenet newsgroups may not be sufficiently flexible for emerging needs, especially given the potential of the World Wide Web to offer vastly better organization (e.g. to intersperse reference materials, illustrations, software examples, etc.) for interactive discussions. In the first year of the grant we will work with organizations such as BBN's Musenet and SRI's TappedIn which are developing multi-user environments that complement existing technologies with real-time communication and graphically rich virtual spaces (e.g. Web-based MOOs/MUVEs). We will maintain text-only access as well at all times. During the second year we will integrate these new technologies into existing projects, and will evaluate and disseminate them in the third year. Our budget contains $15,000 each year for communication software to purchase professional support for setting up these environments (SRI estimated costs at $50,000).

Raising the public profile. During 1996 we developed a Web page and associated materials for Math Awareness Week, a project run by the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics, representing the AMS, MAA, and SIAM. We have agreed to manage this site again next year when the theme will be "Mathematics and the Internet," which is to include mathematics on the Internet, a topic that should be useful to us. After year one we hope to transfer the Math Awareness Week Web pages to a consortium of the organizations involved, a useful step toward arranging for the Forum itself to be run in this way.

Including parents and concerned citizens. We will be working with the Association of Presidential Awardees (CPAM) on a new project, a Master Teacher Forum for Parents. As with our Ask Dr. Math project, using the same software master teachers will answer parents' questions and the results will be archived. When the project is flowing smoothly, we will approach CPAM and NCTM about taking it over. Target: another organization assumes responsibility by the end of year two and we support its efforts in year three.

Bridging the gulf between mathematicians and math education. Research mathematicians have shown concern about the state of math education and have been searching for useful activities that can make use of their talents. This presents difficulties, however, since few research mathematicians have much experience in teaching school children or working with teachers. Professors Judy Roitman and Susan Addington are planning a panel on Mathematicians in Math Education for the annual AMS/MAA math meetings, and we have asked them to work with us to develop their investigations into Web pages with links to model collaborations and a discussion section for interaction on this subject. This is an important area and we are asking for honoraria for Addington and Roitman to help them buy some time for it. Target: AMS takes over these pages in year two.

We also plan to continue to experiment with our emerging model of collaborative teams producing Web materials. These involve our Forum Teacher Associates and other lead teachers working with professional mathematicians, math educators, programmers, and Web page developers. In the second year we will begin to disseminate successful models and seek out publishers or other contexts in which to try out income-generating versions of such efforts.

Bridging the gulf between teachers and math education researchers. Although researchers in mathematics education have had and continue to have a profound effect on education reform, their ideas are not always in synch with those of math teachers or research mathematicians. The discussions generated by the Learning and Mathematics series represent a useful initial effort and are available on our site.(16) Our next step will be to persuade some of the leading education researchers to carry out Math Education Research Discussions: publicized, fixed-time Internet discussions on a specific theme with teacher and mathematician respondents. Alan Schoenfeld has agreed to lead a discussion on a topic such as "What do we really want students to learn in our mathematics courses?" A recent paper by John Anderson et al., "Applications and Misapplications of Cognitive Psychology to Mathematics Education,"(17) contains strong criticism of some of what goes under the rubric of constructivism, one of the pillars of much of the reform movement. We will plan at least one such discussion each semester in the hope that we can enlighten the rest of the mathematics community as well as encourage those in math education research to become involved. In years two and three we will look for and work with a group, perhaps the AMS/MAA Committee on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education (CRUME), that might take over this important community-building process.

Facilitating the coordination of Internet math providers. Together with Patrick Ion of the AMS, we have initiated an informal association of the main Internet math providers .(18) We began discussions with a nucleus at the national AMS/MAA meetings in January 1996, and at the Seattle MathFest in August 1996 gave a panel presentation and an 'electronic poster session' where representatives used computers to illustrate their sites, and held an organizational meeting. In addition we hope to bridge communication gaps between sites hosting school-level material and higher-level sites. To this effect we are planning with Harry Tunis of NCTM a session on Internet math providers txo be held at the annual NCTM meeting.

The goal of this effort is to make it possible for users to pass seamlessly from one site to another, avoiding duplication of effort and sharing useful tools and strategies, and to make our Web pages more useful to our various clienteles. One of the main purposes of our collaboration with the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse (ENC), a leading database of mathematics resource information, is to establish protocols and technologies that will make it easy for our resource collections to complement one another. By year three we aim to establish a more formal council of Internet math providers to facilitate their collaboration and support the consortium being built to run the Math Forum.

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The Math Forum is a research and educational enterprise of the Drexel University School of Education.The Math Forum is a research and educational enterprise of the Drexel University School of Education.
15 August 1996