University of Chicago School Mathematics Project

This is an integrated math curriculum created by the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project with the goal of improving school mathematics. The texts were written by a group of accredited math and education professionals. The word "integrated" is used to describe this series because each text incorporates material from several other content areas. For example, sample problems and exercises in Algebra also touch on geometry, probability, and statistics. Although curriculum content seems tailored for the college-bound, I think any student would benefit from using this series.

This curriculum uses the SPUR (Skills, Properties, Uses, Representations) Approach to assess mathematical understanding. The SPUR Approach emphasizes "skill in carrying out various algorithms; developing and using mathematics properties and relationships; applying mathematics in realistic situations; and representing or picturing mathematical concepts." Textbook exercises have a "real-world orientation" because knowing when and how to apply math is just as important as knowing how to do the calculations. A scientific calculator is required for some of the texts in this series.

All texts are similarly organized. A typical lesson begins with an explanation of new material followed by a few illustrative examples and numerous practice problems. I found these lessons to be more visually appealing and interesting to read than corresponding lessons in Saxon. On the other hand, these explanations were typically less detailed than those found in Saxon. Practice problems at the end of each lesson consist of four types of questions. Covering the Reading questions test if the student understood what was just read. Applying the Mathematics questions, the most numerous type, test if the student can use the new concept or skill. Review questions test previously introduced concepts, and one or two thought-provoking Exploration questions usually top off the lesson. Answers to odd-numbered problems are provided in the back of each text.

Suggested projects, a chapter summary, a self-test, and a lengthy chapter review are located at the end of each chapter. A short refresher section, which reviews skills that should be mastered before moving onto the next chapter, is occasionally included at the end of a chapter. Most chapters also include one or two in-class activities. These activities allow the student to investigate a concept, such as the Pythagorean Theorem or parallelogram properties, before the concept is formally introduced in the text. Answers to all self-test problems and odd-numbered chapter review, and refresher problems appear at the end of each text. Complete solutions to all problems are available in the Solution Manual.

Unlike many math texts, project ideas at the end of each chapter often involve writing. For example, one Algebra project asks the student to design a figure on a coordinate plane and to write instructions on how to graph that figure using equations and inequalities. Someone else tests the instructions by trying to reproduce the figure on a plain sheet of graph paper. To me, this project sounds fun and seems like a worthwhile extension. On the other hand, a project on logic and proofs requiring an interview with a lawyer may be difficult to complete. Also, projects that require surveying an entire class might pose some difficulties. Many projects require independent research so you may need the use of the library or Internet. ~ Anh

help desk software