I joined Key Curriculum Press in the summer of 1996 as a member of the Sales and Marketing team. I had just moved to the US a few months earlier from Athens, Greece, via Scotland (that’s a whole other story). One of the first events was the summer sales meeting. I didn’t have a car at the time, heck I barely had a place to live, and I remember walking through Berkeley en route to the meeting wondering what the week would be like.
The first session was an introduction to the Interactive Mathematics Program (IMP), and Sherry Fraser, one of the authors, was the presenter. I thought we’d get a brief overview, cover the main benefits, and then review a sell sheet—typical stuff at most publishing companies. I clearly didn’t know Key or Sherry very well at the time! Sherry started the morning session and taught a lesson from IMP. It was hands-down the best math lesson I’ve experienced. It was math, but it was also history, geography, discussion, ambiguity and then clarity, and fun! I can’t even recall another math class from primary school (although I did love Miss Mackenzie’s class), secondary school, undergraduate, or graduate school that had a similar impact on me. It’s sad, but true, and true for too many people.
A few years later, I was invited to Janice Bussey’s school in Stockton, California. Janice was starting to think about digital curriculum and she wanted to discuss how we could help. When I arrived she asked me if I wanted to sit in on a lesson. I started with an IMP Year 1 class and then stayed for an IMP Year 3 class. Based on the IMP 3 class, I was very excited for the students in Year 1 who would be achieving the same high level of mathematical confidence in just a couple of years. I was amazed at how sophisticated the Year 3 students were. Math was everywhere in the classroom and it was all made by the students. It was on posters on the walls, on the desks, and there were even models on the floor.
More recently, I read Jo Boaler’s book “What’s Math Got To Do With It.” I highly recommend you read it and gift it to any adult you know who has expressed any kind of math anxiety to you—you won’t find a shortage of them. I feel single-handedly responsible for selling at least 1000 copies of Jo’s book because I think it’s so important. At the beginning of the book, Jo describes a very exciting classroom visit she made. She writes, “Different students went to the board, sometimes in pairs or groups, sometimes alone, to share their ideas. Within 10 minutes, the class had solved the problem by drawing from trigonometry and geometry, using similar triangles and tangent lines. The students had worked together like a well-oiled machine, connecting different mathematical ideas as they worked towards a solution. The math was hard and I was impressed.” Jo’s description reminded me of my classroom experience in Stockton. When I saw her recently she confirmed it was also an IMP class.
Last year, I asked Sherry Fraser to do an Ignite! for Key about IMP. Here’s a link to her 5-minute talk which she titled “If you can do math, you can do anything” – a quote from one of the original students. In it, she takes us back 20 years to the first IMP class and looks at where the students are now.
At CMC North last year, a young woman approached me. She was looking for Sherry. She told me her exposure to IMP changed her academic life profoundly and she wanted to thank Sherry. I asked her what she did and she said she was proud to be a high school math teacher. As she spoke about her experience, Sherry approached the booth. I introduced them but I didn’t really need to because she knew exactly who Sherry was. She was thrilled to connect with Sherry and share her story. I felt so happy for the young woman and for all the young people who have found their mathematical voice through their exposure to IMP.