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January 2003, Volume 34, Issue 1

FEATURES

Validations of Proofs Considered as Texts: Can Undergraduates Tell Whether an Argument Proves a Theorem?
Annie Selden, John Selden
This article reports on an exploratory study of the way that eight mathematics and secondary education mathematics majors read and reflected on four student-generated arguments purported to be proofs of a single theorem. The results suggest that such undergraduates tend to focus on surface features of arguments and that their ability to determine whether arguments are proofs is very limited—perhaps more so than either they or their instructors recognize. The article begins by discussing arguments (purported proofs) regarded as texts and validations of those arguments, that is, reflections of individuals checking whether such arguments really are proofs of theorems. It relates the mathematics research community’s views of proofs and their validations to ideas from reading comprehension and literary theory. Then, a detailed  analysis of the four student-generated arguments is given and the eight students’ validations of them are analyzed.

Teaching and Learning Mathematics for Social Justice in an Urban, Latino School
Eric Gutstein
This article reports on a 2-year study about teaching and learning mathematics for social justice in an urban, Latino classroom and about the role of an NCTM Standardsbased curriculum. I was the teacher in the study and moved with the class from seventh to eighth grade. Using qualitative, practitioner-research methodology, I learned that students began to read the world (understand complex issues involving justice and  equity) using mathematics, to develop mathematical power, and to change their orientation toward mathematics. A series of real-world projects was fundamental to this change, but the Standards-based curriculum was also important; such curricula  can theoretically promote equity, but certain conditions may need to exist. Social justice pedagogy broadens the concept of equity work in mathematics classrooms and may help promote a more just society.

Assessing the Impact of Standards-Based Middle Grades Mathematics Curriculum Materials on Student Achievement
Robert Reys, Barbara Reys, Richard Lapan, Gregory Holiday, Deanna Wasman
This study compared the mathematics achievement of eighth graders in the first three school districts in Missouri to adopt NSF-funded Standards-based middle grades mathematics curriculum materials (MATH Thematics or Connected Mathematics Project) with students who had similar prior mathematics achievement and family income levels from other districts. Achievement was measured using the mathematics  portion of the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) administered to all 8th graders in the state annually beginning in the spring of 1997. Significant differences in achievement were identified between students using Standards-based curriculum  materials for at least 2 years and students from comparison districts using other curriculum materials. All of the significant differences reflected higher achievement of students using Standards-based materials. Students in each of the three districts  using Standards-based materials scored higher in two content areas (data analysis and algebra), and these differences were significant.