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Full text of "Project SOLO Newsletter No 23 Nov 30 1973"

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DOCUMENT RESUME 


ED 086 236 


IR 000 090 


TITLE 

INSTITUTION 
SPONS AGENCY 
PUB DATE 
NOTE 


Solo Works; Newsletter Number Twenty-Three. 
Pittsburgh Univ., Pa. Project Solo. 

National Science Foundation, Washington, D.C. 
30 Nov 73 
3p • 


EDRS PRICE 
DESCRIPTORS 


IDENTIFIERS 


MF-$0. 65 HC-$3. 29 

♦Computer Assisted Instruction; ♦Elementary School 
Mathematics; Grade 8; Grade 9; Grade 10; 
♦Mathematics; Mathematics Curriculum; ♦Mathematics 
Education; Mathematics Instruction; Newsletters; 
♦Secondary School Mathematics 
Project Solo 


ABSTRACT 

The first section of this issue briefly reviews the 
initial phase of Project Solo — an attempt to develop new approaches 
to mathematics education. Some limitations of the project are also 
discussed. Following this, the relation of such computer-based 
activities to math education is presented, including the researchers' 
belief that in grades 8 through 10 such experiences can be used to 
synthesize the first six or seven years of primary math education, to 
show students the significant practical applications of mathematics 
and, having given them this exposure, to motivate them to study more 
advance 1, abstract math in order to become capable of more powerful 
practical applications. The last section of the newsletter describes 
the project's top-down approach, whereby the math which is to be 
learned is determined by the research activities and skills which 
students need, and briefly overviews the five courses currently being 
developed. (PB) 


1 



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ED 086236 


FILMED FROM BEST AVAILABLE COPY 





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Project Solo, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15260 

Newsletter #23 November 30, 1973 

Soloworks: A New Name and Some New Ideas From Project Solo 

As most of our readers know, Project Solo is an experimental pro- 
gram concerned with exploring the potential of computers in the hands of 
high school teachers and students. The project tested its ideas during 1970 
72 in three large public schools in Pittsburgh where several hundred stu- 
dents learned to use computers in “solo" mode. These students (and their 
teachers) did some very impressive work; their output* 1 ' gave good evidence 
that the computer is a tool which can help deepen one’s understanding of 
almost any subject. 

One of the limitations of computing we discovered during these ex- 
periments is the way in which teletype I/O can be an obstacle to ’’natural" 
understanding, especially for some of the most interesting parts of math- 
ematics. This is particularly true when one wants to obtain a real feel 
for the power of mathematics by relating it to science, engineering, the 
arts, and other disciplines in significant ways. 




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Some preliminary experiments have convinced us that expanding 
the world of computer peripherals (illustrated above for a lunar landing 
simulation) will make powerful mathematical ideas transparent for lots 
of students. Developing such peripherals, and coming up with good ideas 
on how to use them is the basic concern of the new Soloworks project 


^Information about reprints of Project Solo 
given on the last page of this newsletter. 


u.s. department of health, 

EDUCATION A WELFARE 
NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF 

education 

this document has been 
duced exactly AS RECEIVED FROM 

curriculum modules is I?f N G E iT S poiNT°oF vie Z w or opinions 

5TATE D DO NOT NECESSARILY REPRE- 
SENT OFFICIAL NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF 
EDUCATION POSITION OR POLICY. 


**The official name of the new project is ”A Computer-Based High 
School Mathematics Laboratory". It is supported in part by 
NSF Grant EC-38063. 








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The name Soloworks is meant to conjure up images of both a place 
and a philosophy. The place is a lab at the University of Pittsburgh where ■ 
a small group consisting of projecf staff, high school teachers, and high 
school students are working together to develop and test these ideas. This 
lab is meant to be the prototype of larger math-lab centers to be placed in 
either conventional high schools, or in central learning centers that serve 
several high schools. 

"Soloworks" is also a statement of philosophy, affirming our belief 
that any student can be brought into the world of solo-mode learning by an 
intelligent use of technology. A detailed analysis of what this implies, and 
a game-plan for making it work will be described in Newsletter #26. ("Heuristic 
Strategies for Using Computers to Enrich Education". 


' Relation to Math Education 

Soloworks is officially a project to develop new approaches to high 
school mathematics education. Our work is turning out to be quite inter- 
disciplinary, however, drawing upon important ideas from many other 
fields, particularly computing, ’science, electronics, engineering, music, 
and the performing and visual arts. The age level of students with whom 
we are working falls in the 11-17 bracket, with most of the youngsters in 
grades 8, 9, and 10, 

A simple way to describe where we are in terms of the rest of math 
education is to say that: 

(1) We think the first six or seven years v of primary math education 
can be seized upon, brought together, and combined with higher 
math content to really do^ things in Junior-Senior High, 

(2) After two or three years of doing such important things with math, 
most students will be in an excellent position to start dealing with 
(and appreciating) the power of advanced mathematical abstractions. 


To say the above in another way, our experience with beginning high 
school students has convinced us that this is the right time to make math- 
ematics come alive, and that the structure of advanced math, science, and 
engineering education (grades 11 on up) could become a whole new ball game 
for youngsters who do important things with math at an early age,' We think 
it is fair to say that our thrust is aimed at a critical transitional period in 
math education. 


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Primary Math Education \ 

..,6,7,8, I 




Grades: 1, 2, 


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t Advanced Math Education 




11, 12, College . . , 


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* These numbers could change radically for children in a primary 
curriculum of the type being developed by Seymour Papert at MIT. 

O 

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3 


The Soloworks Labs 

The kind of math to be studied in the Soloworks curriculum is going 
to be (mainly) determined by what we call a "top-down" approach. This 
means that we will start by defining both research activities and skills ; 
these in turn will determine the mathematics to be studied. This approach 
results in a v&ry different structure than that obtained by defining content first 
and then looking for applications. We think the top-down approach will get 
around the sterility sometimes induced by behavioral objectives that "log- 
ically" build on each other in linear fashion. 

Our original intent was to develop four lab courses (roughly corre- 
sponding to one semester each). A new lab (logical design) seems to be 
forcing itself on us, giving five courses. The five labs are called Computer 
Lab, Dynamics Lab, Logical Design Lab, Synthesis Lab, and Modelling/ 
Simulation Lab. Each Lab will focus on the achievement of major skills, and 
on the pursuit of research projects. The organization of each lab will be 
something like the following: 



Figure 1. Organization of the Soloworks Laba 


As can be seen, the role of the teacher in such a system is more 
one of facilitator than lecturer. This is why a technologically based 
support system is needed. Newsletter #24 will discuss spme of the tech- 
nology we are considering for each lab, and give some examples of the 
skills and projects involved 


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