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Private Universe Project in Mathematics



From: Alex Griswold (agriswold@cfa.harvard.edu)
Date: Fri Oct 27 2000 - 12:24:48 EDT

  • Next message: Dennis McCowan: "[Channel-talkpupmath] Session Two"

    Hi Dennis---

    I'd like to respond to your excellent questions posed in the previous
    As series producer of the Private Universe Math series, I asked the same
    questions when I first learned about the study.

    The district of Kenilworth, NJ is quite small, in fact, it has only two
    schools (1 ES, 1 MS/HS). In the early years of the study, students
    moved through grades 1-3 as a group for three years. This made it
    attractive to the researchers, since they could follow students'
    thinking for an extended period without having to pull students out of 3
    different classes.

    The selection of the original class of 25 students was truly random; the
    researchers picked one of the school's classes, and whoever happened to
    be in that class was in the study. After the early elementary years,
    there was the normal attrition with students moving to other districts,
    going to private schools, etc. By middle school, the researchers had
    decided to try to follow a group of these students in more depth, so
    instead of taking a whole class, they would work with subsets of

    My understanding was that they were making a conscious effort to make
    their group representative of the entire student body. Certain students
    (i.e. Stephanie) were included because they could do a good job of
    articulating their thinking, but by no means were these students
    necessarily the "star" pupils of the school.

    In terms of socio-economic scale, the students were very representative
    of the town. Personally, I don't know if there were any special needs
    students included in the study, but I don't believe that the selection
    process was designed to exclude these children. In my personal
    experience, today they are typical young adults in all respects, except
    that they love math more that most students and feel comfortable doing it.

    I'm sorry, but I can't answer your other question about manipulatives.
    What do you think? Do you think it would be better if students were
    forced to come up with their own representations of the problem instead
    of having manipulatives?


    Alex Griswold

    In reply to:

    > A question raised about the children we saw in the tape: Were all
    > students in the grade taped? How were those we ended up watching
    > actually selected? Are they representative of the Kenilworth
    > children? Were "special education" children part of the study?
    > Yet another question- manipulaties were provided for "Towers" but none
    > were provided for the "Cups Plates and Bowls" problem. What was the
    > thinking behind that decision? If doll cups, plates, and bowls had been
    > provided, would that bhave hgelped or hindered the mathematical growth
    > of the students?
    > Dennis McCowan

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