Mathematics By Design
MISSION STATEMENT by Rhonda J. Molix-Bailey, Consultant/Author
Mathematics education is ever becoming an ever-increasing barrier to obtaining a post-secondary education and competing in the job market for many students from all socio-economic backgrounds. Far too often, these are students from diverse cultural backgrounds, students from low socio-economic backgrounds, and students for whom English is a second language. Standardized tests scores, including T.A.K.S., the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and U.S.Census data confirm this. In mathematics, algebra has long been called "The Gatekeeper" however, in terms of student preparation for post-secondary education and the 21st Century job market, we must recognize that algebra is “The Emancipator” opening for students’ the gateway for higher level mathematics and complex problem-solving.
We live in a country where it has all too frequently been acceptable to be innumerate. Statements like, "I was not good in math", are too frequently the norm. On the contrary, it has never been acceptable to be illiterate. Many students and adults are concrete learners, yet most mathematics instruction is taught in the abstract as a set of rote skills, memorization of disconnected facts and procedures. Students who are concrete learners lose are often left in the dark. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, national political figures, corporate stakeholders, and educational leaders have partnered in an organization called Achieve, acknowledging that high school students with limited access to challenging mathematics instruction are not likely to complete college (see www.achieve.org).
When I refer to algebra, I do not mean the algebra that many of us learned as symbolic manipulation and memorization of formulas, although these processes are still a fundamental part of learning algebra in today's classroom. Algebraic thinking has taken on a new face, which we refer to a function-based algebra. This approach focuses on patterns and relationships and the representation of concepts in multiple forms, i.e. as number, symbols, graphs, verbal descriptions, concrete objects and pictures, as well as the recognition of numerical patterns in tables. Throughout the United States and internationally, the function-based approach to algebra is introduced to students as early as kindergarten in a grade appropriate manner. Effective instructional strategies must be implemented such that we are reaching and teaching all students to comprehend and apply mathematical concepts. Research-based instructional strategies will direct student towards becoming fluent, competent problem-solvers, who are tenacious, creative, and resourcefulness all of which are necessary life skills. It is not possible to escape mathematics in everyday life.
I serve as an author with McGraw-Hill Education the Glencoe-McGraw/Hill and MacMillan-McGraw/Hill Division and Co-Authored the high school series of What's Math Got to Do With It? Award-winning video series). I served as the lead-consultant to KERA’s Math Can Take You Places video series and curriculum . KERA is the PBS affiliate in Dallas – Fort Worth,Texas and surrounding counties. I have worked on staff at the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin as the Mathematics Director for the Partnership for High Achievement serving teachers throughout Texas stretching from the bordering states of Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas and the Mexican International border in South and far West Texas. I have also had the pleasure of serving as a Senior Mathematics Consultant for ESC Region X, Richardson, Texas, which encompasses over 83 urban, suburban, and rural school districts in eight counties which includes Dallas Independent School District, the second largest district in the state of Texas. Over the years, I have presented sessions incorporating hands-on mathematics instruction, to tens of thousands of students, teachers, administrators, school board members, parents and others; they often ask, “Why wasn't I taught mathematics this way?" Many have stated, “If I had learned mathematics this way, they would have understood it”. I have been blessed to be the author of the vast majority of these professional development and student mathematics materials that I have presented over the years.
The Goal: We must work together to improve mathematics instruction for all students through educating and at times, re-educating the public. We must open doors and present choices in mathematics instruction to all students and eliminate the practice of tracking underrepresented student populations into low-level/remedial mathematics courses. We must raise our level of expectation for all student populations, and provide each of them with interesting and challenging instruction.These efforts can be accomplished through ongoing research-based professional development, the establishment of communities of learning, data-driven decision-making and continued commitment to move all students forward.
Respectfully,Rhonda J. Molix-Bailey