December 2, 2013 - San Marcos, TX
Math Explorations, a middle school math curriculum authored by four Texas State University math faculty, has achieved state adoption status through the Texas Education Agency (TEA). It is one of ten middle school math curricula recently approved by the TEA and State Board of Education (SBOE) under Proclamation 2014, which called for instructional materials in math, science, and technology applications. These materials will begin use in the 2014-2015 school year. Math Explorations was the only approved math curriculum published by a university and authored entirely by math professors from the same institution.
The Math Explorations curriculum was authored by Texas State math professors Max Warshauer, Hiroko Warshauer, Terry McCabe, and Alex White, as part of a curriculum research and development program conducted by the Mathworks center. The curriculum has its origins in the flagship summer math programs held by Mathworks. The faculty members took the proven Mathworks Junior Summer Math Camp (JSMC) materials and extended them to cover a full school year curriculum, aligned to the Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills (TEKS) math standards. Though the materials in the JSMC program were being mastered by 4th and 5th grade students, the content matched up to the state's 7th grade standards. Research related to and development of the curriculum was supported through grants from the RGK, Meadows, Sid W. Richardson, and KDK-Harman Foundations. The KLE Foundation has also established an endowment at Texas State, whose earnings will support districts wishing to implement this new curriculum.
The curriculum started out with just one textbook, for the 7th grade, in the 2008-2009 school year. In the subsequent school year, the authors expanded the curriculum to cover all the middle school grades, 6 - 8. The grade 8 textbook includes the completion of Algebra 1. There is an algebraic focus woven in throughout all three textbooks in the series. The philosophy of the Math Explorations curriculum is that all students can achieve in algebra, given the proper guidance during middle school. This is in contrast to the traditional student trajectory, where 9th graders are thrust into Algebra 1 after taking "middle school math".
Steve Seidman, Dean of the College of Science & Engineering at Texas State, notes the importance of establishing a good math background when young in order to obtain future degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics - fields that have promising career prospects. Dean Seidman remarked, "The Math Explorations curriculum provides middle school students with solid algebraic foundations. Students completing this curriculum will be well prepared for studying more advanced mathematics in high school. In turn, this will prepare them for university-level studies requiring a solid mathematical background. Math Explorations can therefore be seen as the first step toward a successful career in a STEM discipline."
The authors have continued to refine the curriculum with input from teachers in Austin ISD, McAllen ISD, Midland ISD, New Braunfels ISD, and San Marcos CISD. Sam Baethge, former MathCounts national problem writer, and Bonnie Leitch, a long time middle school math teacher, contributed edits and ideas. Texas State Math Education Ph.D. students and undergraduates were also involved in the development process. In order to be considered for state adoption, the materials had to meet at least 50% of the TEKS in math, and 100% of the English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS). All three Math Explorations textbooks met those requirements and are now on the state adopted list.
Implementation of Math Explorations has already seen success with more than 5,000 students across the state. Use of the curriculum is strongly correlated with positive gains in algebra readiness, as measured by the Orleans Hanna Algebra Prognosis. Research from the National Mathematics Advisory Panel shows that "students who complete Algebra 2 are more than twice as likely to graduate from college, compared to students with less mathematical preparation." However, for many students, merely passing Algebra 1 is a major hurdle. Math Explorations has tremendous potential to raise the level of math achievement for students of diverse backgrounds, with the premise of building a solid pre-algebra foundation before high school.
Mathworks Director Max Warshauer adds, "We are excited to have our Mathworks Math Explorations (ME) middle school curriculum on the state adopted list of the Texas Education Agency (TEA). ME weaves in algebra throughout this curriculum for students in grades 6,7,and 8, while also covering the TEKS. By integrating algebraic concepts into all three grades, students will develop the foundation they need for success in algebra and more advanced math. Mathworks offers a menu of options related to the curriculum, including teacher training and benchmark testing to support districts that would like to use this curriculum. We are also developing a network of Mathworks Algebra Program (MAP) sites to support implementation of the curriculum across the state."