Monday, October 1, 2018

CBMS Forum Announcement: High School to College Mathematics Pathways

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I am using this month’s column to announce the next Forum from the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences (CBMS), High School to College Mathematics Pathways: Preparing Students for the Future. It will be held at the Hyatt Regency in Reston, VA, May 5–7, 2019, run in cooperation with the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas, Austin and Achieve. Details can be found here

The Forum is designed to develop and support state-based task forces working to bridge the gaps between high school and college mathematics. The ultimate goal is to help states create policies and practices for mathematics instruction that contribute to successful completion without reducing quality. To be truly effective, such a task force will need to be representative of all interests across the state including business and industry as well as those who shape educational policy and those who implement it at both high school and post-secondary levels, including both two- and four-year institutions. The full task force will probably have twenty or more members. The Forum is intended to work with a smaller team of six to eight individuals who will provide the leadership for the task force.

Figure 1. Bill McCallum, Brit Kirwan, and Joan Leitzel at the Third CBMS Forum, Content-Based Professional Development for Teachers of Mathematics, October 10-12, 2010
CBMS is the umbrella organization for the professional societies in mathematics, spanning pure and applied mathematics and statistics and including practitioners of the mathematical sciences in education (both PreK-12 and post-secondary), research, business, and industry. Over the past decade, these societies have come to agreement on a series of issues with direct relevance to mathematics education in grades 11–14, the critical transition over which so many students stumble. The Dana Center has many years of experience working with state leadership in formulating effective policies for mathematics instruction, as exemplified by their Mathematics Pathways programs. The Forum is designed to prepare state-based teams to build structures that draw on the expertise of the Dana Center and the professional societies in order to facilitate constructive dialogue among stakeholders.

Figure 2. One of the breakout sessions from the Third CBMS Forum.

The Forum will focus on three issues with which the professional societies have wrestled and toward which they can contribute insight:
  • Responding to the changing role of mathematics in the economy. The avalanche of data across all fields is spurring exciting and important work in mathematics. The transition years of grades 11–14 are critical for building the foundations for a workforce that can meet the evolving needs of the new economy.
  • Ensuring college readiness today and tomorrow. High school and college mathematics educators are working collaboratively on this issue, recognizing the need for college-ready students, but also student-ready colleges. CBMS societies acknowledge the need for a broader understanding of how mathematics is and will be used, encompassing modeling, statistics, and data science. They also understand the need for active learning approaches that promote problem-solving abilities and higher order thinking.
  • Articulating the mathematical pathways that will serve all students. Changes in demographics, economic demands, and the mathematical sciences themselves are forcing reconsideration of the pathways into and through college-level mathematics. It is necessary to evaluate whether the course structures now in place still serve their intended purpose and to understand the alternatives that are available. 
Figure 3. Following lunch discussion at Third CBMS Forum.

Structure of the ForumFi

The spring 2019 Forum will be built around 20 to 25 state-based teams of six to eight leaders who are committed to the formation of a local task force that will pursue dialogue leading to the creation of structures and policies that address the three issues. Each team should include representatives of the state’s department of education, higher education system, and two-year college system, while also drawing on state leaders who have been engaged in efforts to improve mathematics education at either the high school or college level. In addition to its plenary sessions, the Forum will be offering breakout sessions designed to meet the needs of state leaders at four different stages of development of bridging activities:
  1. Investigating. At the introductory level are those state-based leaders who are simply curious about what has been happening in mathematics education focused on grades 11 to 14. The Forum will expose them to a wealth of information and offer suggestions of how they could begin to address the issues of the mathematical bridge.
  2. Initializing. These are state-based teams that are aware of significant problems at the transition from high school to college mathematics, are ready to start looking at programs and efforts that could improve the situation, and want to learn more about the options that are available and the efforts being undertaken in other states.
  3. Emerging. These are the states that have begun work on one side of the problem but have not started to coordinate efforts across the gap. The Forum will provide networking opportunities with states that are well down the road of coordinating these efforts.
  4. Implementing. These are the states that are committed to efforts that regularly bring together leaders from K-12 and higher education and are in the process of developing coordinated programs. We will provide opportunities for them to learn of other efforts and to work with policy experts to deal with obstacles and difficulties that have been encountered.
The state-based teams will leave the Forum with an agenda for following up on the ideas that they have encountered and with the connections necessary to help them as they flesh out the construction of a task force to address issues at the transition from high school to college mathematics. There will be continuing support from the Dana Center and the opportunity to engage more directly with their expertise in policy formation.

The Forum will be held at the Hyatt Regency, Reston, VA, convenient to both Washington, DC and Dulles airport. It will begin at 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 5 and conclude at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 7. It will offer a mix of plenary speakers and panelists as well as breakout sessions where participants can receive advice and support from policy experts at the Dana Center and engage with representatives of the CBMS societies around their recent reports and recommendations. Thanks to sponsorship from the Teagle Foundation and expected support from the National Science Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, CBMS anticipates covering the hotel expenses for up to six team members from up to 25 states.
The day before the Forum, Saturday, May 4, 2019, is the biennial National Math Festival, held at the Washington, DC, Convention Center. Those coming to the Forum are strongly encouraged to take in this day of mathematics for all

Diane Briars, Chair of CBMS, also chairs the planning committee. For questions, please contact Kelly Chapman, CBMS Administrative Coordinator,