Andre Toom Department of Mathematics firstname.lastname@example.org University of the Incarnate Word Tel. 210-646-0500 (h) 4301 Broadway 210-829-3170 (o) San Antonio, Texas 78209-6318 Fax 210-829-3153
---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Tue, 6 May 1997 18:59:52 -0800 (AKDT) From: Kim Mackey <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Manifesto on IMP
About two months ago I posted a message to this newsgroup about IMP (Interactive Mathematics Program), including a conversation with a 3rd year IMP student and an analysis of a transcript study done by the WCER on IMP. In my analysis I suggested that the evidence indicated that IMP hindered high-achieving mathematics students more than the traditional program. Below is a manifesto which I believe supports my analysis. The manifesto was written by Dr. Shoumen Datta who works in the Superintendent's office of the San Francisco Unified School District. Dr. Datta has given me permission to post his manifesto to the newsgroup.
From: Dr Shoumen Datta INTERACTIVE MATHEMATICS PROGRAM
Manifesto on an Experimental Concept Gone Awry
Rarely an acronym [IMP] has generated such a polarized acrimonious response within an academic community, in particular, at SFUSD's Thurgood Marshall Academic High School [TMAHS] which opened its doors from Fall 1994 at Bay View - Hunter's Point area of the city. The dividing lines are clear: the current practice and implementation of IMP is deemed failing in rigour by most who value uncompromising scholarship; those who favour IMP are less impressed by rigour or scholarship and encourage the lowest common denominator.
The author of this manifesto finds no reason to oppose the conceptual mechanism promoted by the Interactive Mathematics Program [IMP] but believes that its current state of implementation falls far too short of any scholastic yardstick. It is also my opinion that IMP could provoke a sense of inquiry in a small cross-section of students whose aptitude may already reflect promise in the area of arts or humanities. Therefore, inclusion of IMP as an alternative mathematics program has its merits. However, let there be no doubt that IMP does not provide the core mathematics foundation vital for physical sciences and pre-engineering courses. The latter must be offered at levels that will enable SFUSD graduates to successfully compete for institutions like UC Berkeley and Stanford University. Above all, IMP cannot satisfy the academic requirements and is in stark contrast to the Superintendent's proposal to mandate higher standards for graduation. This manifesto, albeit incomplete, will attempt to present facts and opinions with respect to the four critical players in this debate: students, teachers, parents and administrators.
It is uncommon to find students attending a parent-teachers meeting at 7pm but such a meeting at TMAHS on 3rd December 96 was attended by several students. The discussion was suitability of IMP as the only mathematics offering for an "academic" school. Quotes:
"Science class has stopped (for the second year in a row) because students didn't know necessary mathematics"
"I have learned more in Dr. Butscher's SAT prep class than in 2 years of IMP"
"All juniors were told they've had 3 years of college prep mathematics, why don't we feel prepared for college?"
"IMP doesn't prepare us for the real world"
"I was an A student upon entry to Marshall -- I lost that standing due to IMP -- I do much better in traditional mathematics"
"I am an 11th Grader and I took geometry over the summer and was lost"
"We took 2 or 3 fold more time in physics for our teacher to help with mathematics first"
"I am not being prepared for the SATs"
"I don't want to hinge my future on my K-8 mathematics skills -- I want to take traditional mathematics -- I can't transfer IMP skills to Chemistry problems"
"I am not a good mathematics student and I don't feel the teachers help me enough to understand"
"I am juggling 2 math courses (because of junior IMP requirement) and considering dropping pre-calculus"
Let me outline some mathematical facts that were revealed from three questions that I asked:
1] From among the 20-30 sophomores and juniors present at this PTSA meeting not a SINGLE student could explain the difference between y = mx + c and y = mx.
2] Only ONE student could explain the difference between a rhombus and a trapezoid.
3] Students were at a COMPLETE loss at the following question: If you have 100 ml of a 1M solution, how much 0.3 M solution can you make from it.
It is QED that something is deeply amiss! If one knows mathematics, one would agree, hands down! What steps are being taken? An objective evaluation should include rigorous algebraic and geometric reasoning questions in addition to a survey of "attitudes" towards mathematics and mathematical self-confidence of students in the aftermath of IMP.
At the 3rd December 1996 meeting, one science teacher [whose class was the cover story of US News & World Report in 2 Dec 96 issue] voiced the following opinion. Quote:
My name is Dennis Frezzo. I have a Master's degree in Electrical Engineering from UC Berkeley, and I worked for 3 years developing laser surgery equipment in Silicon Valley. I have taught high school for 5 years, the last 3 here at Marshall. My opposition to IMP is based on the following 4 reasons: 1) In my professional judgment as an engineer and as a teacher, IMP is not preparing our students for an education, or a career, in engineering and science. 2) I have taught two-thirds of the students here at Marshall -- over 600 -- and do not find that IMP is preparing our students to succeed in mathematics-based classes such as physics and electronics. 3) For most of our time at Marshall, IMP has been an ideologically-driven, inflexible, minimal-feedback curricular experiment conducted upon our students. IMP has, until recently, been unwilling to listen to the self-articulated needs of our students. If a student-centered evaluation of IMP were done, it would show that IMP is meeting the needs of neither our low-achieving or our high-achieving students. Dozens of students, who enjoyed mathematics prior to Marshall, now feel inadequate about the mathematics they are NOT learning. 4) In part because of IMP's failings, students wishing to take calculus in senior year must complete 6 one-year mathematics courses to do what other curricula do in 4 courses. The result is fewer arts and humanities electives which serve to broaden the outlooks of, and increase the career options of, our students here at Marshall. I would add that while others amongst the science faculty feel similarly, I am speaking for myself and others and for many students. Particularly ridiculous is the claim that IMP is responsible for our high math scores at Marshall. No such correlations are warranted in an uncontrolled, multivariable experiment.
Mr Frezzo, thereafter, was faced with personal attacks from IMP teachers at TMAHS, including the department chair and district administrators. The accuracy of his critiques were reflected in the display of content-deprived insecurities of the teachers and administrators involved in this quagmire. The science department chair at TMAHS, a 12 year employee of SFUSD with a BS in Biology, has actively discouraged the science and technology teachers from constructive criticisms of IMP. The science department staff is comprised of two doctorates [Chemistry, Engineering], two engineers [EE, ME], two Master's [Physics, Chemistry] and a couple BS [Biology]. The TMAHS science chair [BS] should consider it his privilege and honour to lead such a group of teachers and pay attention to the scholarship they bring to the system. The question begs to be asked if content-based curriculum discussions are being squelched because of political collusion by those who lack scholarship?
The four teachers who teach science to the junior class has described similar experiences arising from inadequacies of IMP at TMAHS. It must be noted that this school was publicly promised to offer an academically rigorous college-preparatory mathematics, science and technology curriculum for all students. Specifically, students have great difficulty isolating unknowns, have no basic understanding of slope, have little or no facility with handling scientific numbers, exponents, compound fractions, radicals, have poor graphical interpretation skills and lack confidence in any use of their analytical problem-solving skills.
Other teachers report and I consent, that IMP's curricular material are sub-standard in terms of visual presentation and layout compared to the worst modern mathematics texts. Little technology or computer integration is reflected in the curriculum other than the use of hand-held calculators. The latter enables the student to mechanically plot [say: y = mx + c] but does not install the concept or rigour of the fundamental equation! Since IMP's problem of the week remain unchanged from year to year, discouraged students are prone to indulge in uncalled for liberties. Is this the hallmark of a robust and effective curriculum?
The success claimed by the proponents of IMP should have induced the juniors to opt for IMP. Shouldn't it? Instead it was imposed as a "requirement" or else students, in large numbers, would not choose IMP as their junior mathematics class. Requirement of IMP in the junior year causes a de facto requirement for pre-calculus as well, since students realize they are mathematically handicapped. Such impositions compromises their choices in arts and technology electives leading to even lesser opportunity for a well-rounded education.
Two tenth grade Integrated Science teachers report that their students are afraid of ANY science problem which involve mathematics. They add many supplemental drills to their curriculum to overcome the math anxiety in their students. Implementation of IMP is teaching neither the problem-solving skills nor the number-handling skills necessary for even the most basic quantitative scientific rigour. I understand that some members of the science department considered drafting a statement regarding the universal lack of mathematics preparation as perpetuated by IMP, but factoring in the the price of administrative backlash, one can understand their reticence. Is this the nature of working in a "world-class school" as touted in the recent SFUSD public relations pamphlet?
The poor scholastic backbone of the mathematics department at TMAHS lends it support to IMP. Some mathematics teachers in this department do not even possess an undergraduate degree in mathematics! I wouldn't give one iota of credibility to opinions expressed by such individuals. Of course, it is comfortable to say "yes" to political status quo where criticisms of IMP curriculum are considered politically incorrect.
Several weeks prior to the 3rd December 1996 meeting, I received an e-mail from Dr Jim Marks outlining the academic insults inflicted by IMP at TMAHS. The e-mail was forwarded to SFUSD Superintendent Waldemar Rojas and Associate Superintendent Maria Santos. Subsequently, four TMAHS parents visited me to discuss their concerns about IMP. It was clear from my discussion with Dr Jim Marks, Mrs Marlyn Bussey, Mr Dennis Lok and Mr Jim Lee, that the situation was approaching a public precipitation that was not reflective of the Superintendent's intention or goals. I assured them that I had no doubts about the Superintendent's committment to uphold rigorous mathematics as a part of his publicly proposed vision during the dedication of TMAHS. In addition, I mentioned that the Superintendent had indicated to me on multiple occasions that IMP has limited or no role in an "academic" college-preparatory school. On 3rd December one parent defended the IMP program [he is an architect] but an overwhelming number of parents were critical. Quotes:
"My son took a programming class at UC over summer; the instructor told him his mathematics background was not adequate"
"I feel lost trying to help my student because there's no reference material for IMP"
"The Current IMP program is short-changing students -- they need to mix SAT mathematics with IMP problems and problem-solving methods"
"There is no time for juniors to make up deficits for SATs this spring"
"I have my son do tutorials in algebra to augment IMP mathematics"
"The district is using TMAHS students as guinea pigs"
"Why is IMP not taught at other academic high schools?"
"IMP does not provide the mathematics background to pursue the sciences in any serious manner"
"Chemistry and Physics teachers are having to provide extra mathematics drills"
"IMP does not offer the breadth and rigour necessary for conceptual appreciation of higher mathematics, science, or technology"
"IMP does not provide what is needed for the mathematics section on the SAT"
"My proposal is to compromise, and have both IMP and traditional mathematics"
"IMP does not adequately teach algebra, geometry and trigonmetry"
TMAHS Principal, Dr Samuel Butscher, who has earned a PhD in Mathematics Education from UC Berkely, has been repeatedly cornered in difficult situations with the intent to disallow him to arrive at an implementation plan of IMP to include greater rigour. I believe that most recently Dr Butscher was "overruled" in his attempt to make IMP optional for juniors. Dr Butscher has repeatedly proposed creating hybrids since the dichotomy of IMP versus the supposed demon "traditional mathematics" is false. Constructive alternatives to IMP and traditional mathematics exist: they are rigorous, integrated, engaging with a wide variety of manipulatives and computer applications. IMP's supporters pretend there is no alternative to IMP for reaching low-achieving students: this is simply not the case. Much of this has been done in the name of adhering to the strict provisions of the NSF grant. TMAHS is not an experimental station for NSF or its grant recipients. Is it? I will be discussing the debilitating effect of SFUSD's IMP with NSF directly.
Mr Bernard Farges, Director of SF Project 2061, has been facilitating a Mathematics and Science Collaboration at TMAHS. A superior communicator and a mathematics teacher by profession, Mr Farges deserves great praise for attempting to "see through" this apparent madness of political turf battle versus truth in scholarship. One-on-one, IMP teachers are interacting with their science counterparts, working out a matrix which matches specific mathematics skills needed in science with their corresponding IMP units. Extra drills [often in algebra] are being added to IMP. While this productive work is trying to reform IMP, it does not address the core weakness. We must tune the engine and stop polishing the chrome. Administrators responsible for this debacle should know better!
My views are said to be "elitist" since it is often implied that IMP serves African-American and Latino students well. The failure rates of African-American and Latino students in IMP parallel their failure rates in other core classes at TMAHS. It is clear that IMP is actually leaving African-American and Latino students further behind since they are not seeking supplemental help in mathematics being buoyed by their false sense of confidence in "achieveing" the lowest common denominator offered by IMP. On the other hand, higher self-expectations among Asian-American students lead to their feeling of inadequacy with IMP. Consequently, they seek mathematics tutorials outside of school. The latter widens the gap and promotes the exact opposite of what IMP would like to claim. In other words, it is my hypothesis that a controlled study may reveal the difference in mathematics achievement between African-American [and Latino students] and Asian-American students are widening because of IMP. This is truly a dark example of a supposedly good intention gone awry!
Scores obtained by a select group of so-called "high-achieving" TMAHS juniors are not encouraging. Mean score was 470 on the mathematics part of PSAT. Shouldn't we use this as a pragmatic "bottom-line" for which TMAHS mathematics staff and district proponents of IMP should be held accountable? Is it so difficult to do the right thing for our students?