Date: Mar 31, 1993 7:53 PM Author: Evelyn Sander Subject: Interview with Bob Devaney Boston University professor Bob Devaney is in Minnesota this week,

as part of the Minnesota Math Mobilization program. He is usually

in Boston doing research in Complex Dynamics, but for his spring

break, he has chosen to travel around the state giving talks to

audiences of high school math teachers as well as some college

students. I had a chance to talk to him this morning immediately

before he left for Duluth.

Professor Devaney is concerned about the lack of

communication between high school math teachers and college

math teachers and researchers. "It's ridiculous to have two

groups of mathematicians so divided; for the most part, they

do not talk to one another. Most mathematicians at the college

level don't even know what NCTM stands for. And yet high

school teachers are the ones responsible for getting students

interested in mathematics."

What exactly is turning students away from math?

"Our society currently views it as acceptable to dislike math.

High school students decide math is boring so they're going to

stop taking it; their parents don't object. They say, 'I got by

with only eighth grade math, so my kids will be able to do

the same.'

"Most high school teachers are afraid of changing the curiculum

to incorporate technology and modern mathematics. The lack

of communication with researchers makes it very difficult for

them.

"These attitudes are part of why our country is in the state it's

in today. We need to make an effort to get students interested

again. I think it's time for mathematicians to do what everyone

else has been doing for a long time; namely, popularize and

advertize."

How can we popularize mathematics?

Professor Devaney has been active in a program affiliated with

Boston University which works with Boston inner city schools:

"The purpose of the program was twofold; first, we wanted to

help the teachers learn to use the technology effectively.

The schools all had computers, but we had to find a way to

incorporate them into the curiculum.

"The second goal of the program was to add modern mathematics

into the courses. The teachers really resisted this, so in order

to convivce them, we formed an after school Chaos Club. Once a week

we would have some activity, usually on the computer. It was

always something fun but also always having to do with math.

The club was very popular with students. The teachers were

amazed at all these students staying after school to do math.

It was quite persuasive of the importance of this kind of material.

Now the teachers have taken over the club."

For the specific material that Professor Devaney feels is

appropriate for high school students, as well as a desription

of the talks he is giving in Minnesota this week, please see

the part two of this article.