kitchen table math, the sequel: Middle School Mathematics Institute updates

Monday, March 7, 2011

Middle School Mathematics Institute updates

Middle School Mathematics Institute (MSMI) is alive and well with lots of progress.

MSMI's mission is to help teachers, schools, and parents ensure students succeed at school algebra. Focused primarily on elementary and middle school grades 4-8, MSMI offers a variety of services that build the Bridge to Algebra.

We've got a nice new website:, we are now officially a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation (so donations to MSMI are federally tax deductible), and we're beginning to get some traction in our mission along all of the three prongs--teacher institutes, school curricular services, and parent outreach.

I'll be posting here in the next few days about MSMI 2011 institutes this summer in St. Paul, MN, one on fractions, and another on rational numbers. I'll also be posting about an upcoming event in April here in St. Paul, a workshop on "How to Use the Best Strategies of Singapore Math to Strengthen your Math Instruction." But for now, I'd like to talk about the parent component.

The parent outreach part is just starting to get underway. I gave a talk the other night on the Math on the SAT, Getting to Mastery to a group of parents. Their kids were mostly in elementary and middle school, and that's the time to start helping them understand just what's happening in their students' math curriculum--before it's triage and remediation. The talk highlighted that the SAT reasoning test math portion is a very good test of mathematical maturity, and that maturity simply isn't going to come from the American curricula and textbooks most students see. The talk gave some ideas on just what mastery looks like (both conceptual development and procedural fluency) and how to help students gain that mastery. I was surprised at how well received the talk was, actually, and I hope to do many more on similar topics.

The talk slides are available on the web site to anyone.

Along with that talk, I hope to develop another talk focused on what is needed to be on a college-prep track in high school, and what is needed for college entrance into a STEM career.

MSMI will also be writing some free pamphlets that help parents understand what's happening in math education. Immediately, I expect to have a pamphlet up explaining "curricula, standards, assessments, and all that" so that parents are familiar with these buzzwords. I hope to also get another pamphlet together talking about the false dichotomy between teaching and learning, a kind of mini-primer on what modern ideas of education mean for their student.

I hope to keep refining MSMI's focus on the parent side to maximize the good it can do. I was surprised after my talk that many parents want to organize to do something to help their students, but simply do not know what to do, and what suggestions on how to get their school to change direction. As you might guess, I didn't have a lot to say on that front; MSMI isn't designed for that kind of advocacy. I think for now, it shouldn't be, but I hope it will facilitate parents coming together to do that for their kids.

Anyway, have a look, download the slides, send suggestions (the web site needs pictures, I know, I know...) and drive traffic to, please! :)


TerriW said...

Email came around on a few local HS mailing lists I'm on promoting the Singapore talk -- so grassroots word is definitely getting out about this.

Catherine Johnson said...


I'm looking forward to the day when my district sends someone to MSMI --!