I have participated in the NCTM conference infrequently (mostly lurking), but I have enjoyed being here to read comments from those interested in mathematics education. Now, I would like to engage in a pro-active use of this environment to help the teachers and students I serve. I seek the help of mathematics educators in developing a "Math Lessons Database." This is not a new concept--I have already found and borrowed some work done by Gleason Sackman through the "Send-It" network in North Dakota. To my knowledge, their project obtained a grant to bring educators from around the country together to develop curriculum and share it through a state-wide educational computer telecommunications network.
I have no grant, but I do have a Visa Gold Card, and I've used it to set up an Internet site. This system is the latest extension of 10 years of computer networking I have done in El Paso, Texas on a voluntary basis. Hopefully, the new system can become a repository for mathematics ideas that will be freely available to schools wanting to use this database. We want to expand on the North Dakota project and encourage teachers of mathematics to share their best math lessons with each other. Like the vanguard project, this one proposes to use a common format for submission of mathematics lessons. We suggest that submissions be limited to under 10,000 bytes in length (not an absolute), use only standard ASCII, and conform to the following format:
Format for MLD (Math Lessons Database) _______________________________________________________________________ Tile: <Not to exceed 45 characters>
Author: <Submitted By>
Grade Level: <Example 7-8, 9-12>
Overview: <Like a Lesson Abstract - Contains Keywords for Search>
Purpose: <Starts with the word "To">
Objectives: <Written with Outcomes in Mind>
Activities: <What Teacher and Students Actually Do - Tasks "the verbs">
Resources/Materials Needed: <Time / People / Space / Travel / Things>
Summary: <Closure - Tying it all together> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
I volunteer to organize, provide storage space, and maintain submissions to the MLD. Any school, teacher, or educational institution will be able to freely access the Math Lessons Database via standard internet means or by calling our site directly. The students in our locale, like many other locales, have consistently scored lower on our state's standardized math test than on any other section of the Texas TAAS test. The inability of our students to pass the math exit exam at the 10th grade is adversely affecting our community. Last March, we had 3,350 high school students who failed the math test in our district. If students can't pass the test by the 12th grade, they don't get a diploma. Many become discouraged and drop out of school. Mathematics should not ruin these young lives, it should enable students to think and work more productively. Math should not be a roadblock to future success. So, instead of "lurking," or just pitching in my 2 cents to the list now and then, I'm motivated to actually do something--with your help. I hope to create a "best math lessons database" that will augment implementation of the NCTM standards and be a useful tool for all educators. I'll give it as much time and effort as I can.
Additionally, as a new-age "techno-nut," I hope to use the development of this mathematics database as a catalyst for others to engage in similar activities in their own communities. The BBS system I set up over 10 years ago has evolved from a single line system running on a 300 baud modem, to a high speed, multi-line, internet "giga-system." In 10 years we have put over 20,000 students, teachers, and parents on-line in a digitally-based instructional environment that has received over 1.5 million phone calls. Through this latest initiative, we want to encourage the development of low-cost, locally-available, internet-compatible BBS sites. Connecting a community of learners together doesn't require a huge institutional budget-- it can be done effectively with a modest sum, and our new system will serve as a model for teachers interested in learning to do what we are doing. Our system, the Digital Foundation BBS, is used by thousands of students and hundreds of teachers at no charge on a local phone call. We support efforts to make networking technology available to students who cannot afford it in their homes. "Equity-in-Access" is a major issue educators must wrestle with in the coming years. Access to quality instructional materials and information should not be limited due to economic status, gender, or handicapping conditions.
Just about every teacher has a lesson that really "clicks." We hope you'll share your innovative methods for teaching mathematics by writing down how you do it and submitting it to the Math Lessons Database. A single inspired math lesson might be all it takes for a student to stop hating math and start liking it. If you are interested in submitting your best math lessons to this effort, you can contact me at:
Ken Blystone, Educational Technologist Ysleta Independent School District 9600 Sims El Paso, Texas 79925