Archived Information

Tools for Schools - April 1998

Talent Development Middle School Mathematics Program

What Is It?

The Talent Development Middle School Mathematics program is based on the idea that all students can learn challenging mathematical ideas. To this end, the program couples a demanding standards and research-based curriculum provided to all students in heterogeneous classrooms with a "double dose" computer-based mathematics curriculum made available to those students who need extra help to succeed in mathematics. The core mathematics curriculum, designed by the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project, is a demanding mathematics curriculum intended to deepen and broaden students mathematical understanding and their ability to use mathematics. The curriculum develops advanced skills in geometry, data, and algebra. It is particularly well suited to achieving the goal of Algebra for all students in eighth grade.

Because of the challenging nature of the Talent Development Middle School Mathematics curriculum, many students need extra help in order to succeed. Students needing extra help receive an accelerated learning class in addition to their regular 1 hour math class. The "double dose" class replaces an elective course or gym for at least one quarter of each year.

How Did It Get Started?

The Talent Development Middle School Mathematics Program was initially implemented beginning in September 1995 at a Philadelphia middle school serving significant numbers of adolescents placed at risk, as part of the design for a Talent Development Middle School whole school reform. The math program was designed to be consistent with the Talent Development philosophy that all students can learn challenging material if the right types of supportive conditions are fostered.

How Does It Work?

The Talent Development Middle School Mathematics core curriculum, the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project, incorporates both the best practices from around the world and recent understandings of how students learn mathematics in a teacher friendly package. It is a balanced curriculum which blends the acquisition of essential and core mathematical knowledge with frequent and engaging real world applications and uses of mathematics. These applications make mathematics interesting and exciting to both students and teachers.

A key development principle is the two-five rule which states that anything students are expected to master at a given point should be introduced 2 years prior and explored in at least five different contexts prior to mastery.
 
The curriculum also makes use of structured peer assistance. Students often work with a partner to explore and solve challenging problems. This greatly increases the amount of time students are actively engaged with mathematics during a typical class period.
 
One unique feature is the emphasis the program places on developing students ability to read, interpret, and verbalize mathematical terms and ideas. This is a critical life skill often absent in mathematics curriculums.
 
Students needing extra help receive an accelerated learning class daily, called Computer and Team Assisted Mathematics Acceleration, in addition to their regular math class. Because students only go to this class for one quarter of the year, large number of students in a school can be served each year. Computer and Team Assisted Mathematics Acceleration is not a pullout program so students do not miss the regular math class. It relies upon computer programs to provide targeted instruction to partners who share computers and who take turns answering questions.

What Are The Costs?

The University of Chicago School Mathematics Project curricular materials are commercially published and cost about the same as other commercially available materials. The fifth and sixth grade curriculum uses consumable student books which need to be replaced every year and cost approximately $11 per student. There are also one-time costs for the teacher materials of approximately $175, manipulatives, and some supplemental non-consumable student materials (about $10 per student). The seventh and eighth grade curriculum uses a non-consumable student text which costs about $40 per student.

In addition, schools will need to make an investment in professional development. It is recommended that teachers receive up to 50 hours of professional development during the implementation year and follow-up support in the years to follow.

The costs of running the Computer and Team Assisted Mathematics Acceleration program for 20 students includes the cost of 10 multi-media computers with CD Rom (about $2,000 each if the school does not already have these in a computer lab), the cost of software (about $500), and the cost of a teacher for the period. Professional development for this aspect of the program is usually conducted in conjunction with the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project.

How Is The Model Implemented In A School?

In order to facilitate and insure the successful implementation and use of the Talent Development Middle School Mathematics program, the program has designed an extensive, focused and multi- tiered professional development and teacher support plan. The plan has two main components.

First, teachers receive up to 50 hours of professional development during the implementation year. A 3-day summer institute in August is followed by monthly 3-hour Saturday sessions and up to 6 additional 2-hour sessions held after school which are scheduled as needed.

The second component of the professional development plan is three tiers of teachers support, described below.

What Is The Evidence That The Model Is Successful?

While the Talent Development Middle School Mathematics program has only recently begun to be implemented in a systematic way, there is much evidence to support use of the model. The success of the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project middle school curriculum has been documented in a number of achievement studies. The Middle School Curriculum Review Series has cited the program as a middle school exemplary curriculum sensitive to the needs of urban, educationally disadvantaged students that has "demonstrated success in urban environments.

Most recently, the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project curriculum has been cited as a contributing factor in the success of students in the "First in the World Consortium" a group of school districts in the Chicago area which voluntarily administered and demonstrated world class success on the eighth grade mathematics exam given as part of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study.

Where Can I See It?

University of Chicago School Mathematics Project materials are currently being used by over three million students nation-wide and hundreds of school districts including Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Birmingham, and the Bronx. The Talent Development Middle School Mathematics program can be seen at several middle schools in Philadelphia. Contact the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk to learn more about sites where the program is being implemented.

Whom Do I Contact?

Talent Development Middle School Mathematics Program
Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk
Johns Hopkins University
3003 North Charles Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21218
Telephone: 410-516-8800; Fax: 410-516-8890
E-mail: dmaciver@scov.csos.jhu.edu; Website: http://scov.csos.jhu.edu/crespar/index.htm

The Research Base

The Talent Development Middle School Math program builds on recent research on alternatives to tracking, and on clear theories of how to foster the positive relationships and supportive conditions that are so important to middle school adolescents, especially those adolescents placed at risk. The model draws on research identifying the essential components of effective middle schools. It provides for a curriculum aimed at active learning in which all students are exposed to a demanding curriculum focusing on higher order competencies and utilizing technologies appropriate to these goals. The Talent Development Middle School Mathematics program employs multi-layered pedagogy which includes flexible use of time and resources to prevent course failures and grade retentions and to nurture students' talents.
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