September 5, 2009 – North Carolina is one of several states requiring high school students to take four years of math. For some students this means precalculus or calculus, but for others, this may not be the best option. The MINDSET Project may be the answer for those students choosing not to take calculus.
MINDSET stands for Mathematics INstruction using Decision Science and Engineering Tools and focuses on designing, implementing and evaluating a fourth year mathematics curriculum based upon operations research and industrial engineering. The idea is to teach math with a business focus that will improve a student’s problem solving skills and attitudes toward math, especially in underrepresented populations.
“North Carolina and several other states have already passed a law requiring four years of high school math—and in North Carolina, one of the courses must be after Algebra II,” says Dr. Karen Keene, Co–Principal Investigator on the project. “Students who have completed Algebra II, but are not going to take a pre-calculus/calculus sequence will have our course as an option.”
The project is part of a 5 year National Science Foundation (NSF) funded grant created by researchers from NC State University’s College of Engineering and the College of Education. Teachers from around North Carolina and Michigan are helping to pilot the new curriculum and are providing feedback to the researchers. The feedback researchers receive is an integral part of the design process.
Robert Butler, a teacher from Garinger High School in Charlotte, observed that his students liked the real world solutions and use of technology with the curriculum. “It helped my students and helped me become a more effective teacher,” Butler says.
The course consists of 20 teaching units. Each unit uses at least two contextual or real world problems to develop the ideas. The contexts provide ways for students to relate to the materials and then learn the mathematics. Ten of the chapters are deterministic (they interpret using set equations and techniques) and 10 of the chapters are probabilistic (they use mathematics to manage uncertainty in the real world). Some example contexts include: manufacturing high-tech shoes, cooking a family dinner, locating a disaster response center, and deciding how many cholesterol drugs to produce.
“This program helped my students see the purpose of the math and I think it is a great solution for students that do not like math because it shows them they can do it,” says George Lancaster, a high school teacher from Ypsilanti, Michigan.
Susan Sutton, a 34-year veteran teacher from East Wake School of Health Science liked the program because it challenged her and helped her grow. “This program forced me to change my teaching techniques and as a result, I changed the way I teach all of my classes. I had a great experience,” she says.
The project is currently in its second year and is being mirrored in Michigan in conjunction with Wayne State University.