The Math Forum: 1996 
Summer Institute - sum96

July 15-19, 1996 - Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

Onsite Participants || Working Groups

Peter Appelbaum

Address:17 Essex Avenue, Montclair, NJ 07042
Phone: (201) 744-6913, (201) 595-3123 office
School: William Paterson College

Peter Appelbaum is a professor of mathematics and science education at William Paterson College of New Jersey. He has for some time been interested in the politics of mathematics education: his doctoral dissertation in Social Foundations at the University of Michigan, "Popular Culture, Professional Discourse, and Mathematics Education," was about the ways in which people construct commonsense notions of what mathematics "is." Peter attended the Geometry Forum's Summer Institute in Swarthmore, PA in 1993.

Peter is interested in developing thematic units based on individual and group interdisciplinary projects. He has been using a 5-week planning model that includes three major components:

This model is popularly described in a book called How Big is the Moon , by Baker/Semple/Stead - Heinemann.

Peter is also seriously interested in three other aspects of curriculum:

  1. Integrating mathematics across the curriculum.

  2. Social justice issues as related to mathematics in society. "Here one can see curriculum as positioning the student in various roles viz-à-viz the subject matter. In most curricula the student is positioned as 'mathematician' and is expected to adopt the perspective of one who 'does' mathematics. What this means has been debated and has wide interpretations. A second option is the citizen-mathematician. Here the student needs to know mathematics to be an informed member of a democratic community - e.g., to be able to understand graphs in a newspaper, to be able to vote on school budgets or placements of toxic waste dumps. Another important option is the student as subject of mathematics - how math is used to turn the person into an object of study, how people and things are objectified through mathematical models, etc. In this object-orientation we might also lump in the de-mathematization of society through implicit mathematics that happens (invisibly?) through technology - the automatic cash registers at MacDonalds, scantrons at supermarkets, automated tellers, CAD programs, - in which the mathematics is done for us as we no longer know what exactly is being done. What are the implications of these different positionings of students? Can curricula be developed that include all perspectives? Are there other important perspectives (especially in light of issues of pluralistic, multi-cultural societies)?"

  3. Alternative assessment as an integrated component of curriculum development rather than an add-on that evaluates the success of the curriculum. "[C]urriculum development won't change anything if the assessment is reduced to tired notions of 'evaluation.' I want to promote a transformation of what we want students to know and so on through changing our notions of what it means to 'show that one knows'."

Peter plans to design resources this summer that can be used later to team up with math teachers in Northern New Jersey to adapt them as necessary and obtain feedback on their use.

Working Group: Paths through the Web

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Math Forum * * * * 10 July 1996