Philosophy of MiC

Mathematics in Context represents a comprehensive mathematics curriculum for the middle grades consistent with the content and pedagogy suggested by the NCTM Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics, and Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics. The development of the curriculum units reflects a collaboration between research and development teams at the Freudenthal Institute at the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands, research teams at the University of Wisconsin, and a group of middle school teachers.

A total of 40 units have been developed for Grades 5 through 8. These units are unique in that they make extensive use of realistic contexts. From the context of tiling a floor, for example, flow a wealth of mathematical application; such as similarity, ratio and proportion, and scaling. Units emphasize the inter-relationships between mathematical domains; such as number, algebra, geometry and statistics. As the project title suggests, the purpose of the units is to connect mathematical content both across mathematical domains and to the real world. Dutch researchers, responsible for initial drafts of the units, have 20 years of experience in the development of materials situated in the real world. These units were then modified by staff members at the University of Wisconsin to make them appropriate for U.S. students and teachers.

Because the philosophy underscoring the units is that of teaching mathematics for understanding, the curriculum will have tangible benefits for both students and teachers. For students, mathematics should cease to be seen as a set of disjointed facts and rules. Rather, students should come to view mathematics as an interesting, powerful tool that enables them to better understand their world. All students should be able to reason mathematically; thus, activities will have multiple levels so that the able student can go into more depth while a student having trouble can still make sense out of the activity. For teachers, the reward of seeing students excited by mathematical inquiry, a redefined role as guide and facilitator of inquiry, and collaboration with other teachers should result in innovative approaches to instruction, increased enthusiasm for teaching, and a more positive image with students and society.

Each of the units uses a theme that is based on a problem situation that should be of interest to students. These themes are the "living contexts" from which negotiated meanings can be developed and sense-making can be demonstrated. Over the course of the four-year curriculum, students will explore in-depth the mathematical themes of number, common fractions, ratio, decimal fractions, integers, measurement, synthetic geometry, coordinate and transformation geometry, statistics, probability, algebra, and patterns and functions. Although many units may emphasize the principles within a particular mathematical domain, most will involve ideas from several domains, emphasizing the interconnectedness of mathematical ideas. These units are designed to be a set of materials that can be used flexibly by teachers, who tailor activities to fit the individual needs of their classes.

Students working individually and in flexible group situations, which include paired work and cooperative groups. We believe that the shared reality of doing mathematics in cooperation with others develops a richer set of experiences than students working in isolation.

Students exiting Mathematics in Context (MiC) will understand and be able to solve non-routine problems in nearly any mathematical situation they might encounter in their daily lives. In addition, they will have gained powerful heuristics, vis-à-vis the interconnectedness of mathematical ideas, that they can apply to most new problems typically requiring multiple modes of representation, abstraction, and communication. This knowledge base will serve as a springboard for students to continue in any endeavor they choose, whether it be further mathematical study in high school and college, technical training in some vocation, or the mere appreciation of mathematical patterns they encounter in their future lives.