A Hope College-based effort to develop a new way of pre-calculus instruction has produced a book of problems that can be used at high schools and colleges both.
"Projects for Precalculus" was published earlier
this year by Saunders College Publishing. The authors are
Janet Andersen, associate professor of mathematics and
coordinator of general education at Hope; Todd Swanson,
adjunct assistant professor of mathematics at Hope; and
Robert Keeley, associate professor of education at Calvin
College and former mathematics teacher at Holland Christian
Each of the 26, multi-question problem sets
contained in the book features a different real-life
situation. Examples include calculating the flight plan of
an airplane flying in a cross wind; comparing the difficulty
of kicking a field goal in the NFL, CFL and NCAA; and the
chance of a garage door remote control accidentally opening
someone else's garage.
Many of the projects encourage students to write
and thus have a variety of correct answers. The three
authors recommend evaluating work not only on the solution
reached, but also on the student's reasoning, justification
and communication skills. To place the emphasis on how to
approach the problems, "Projects for Precalculus" also
encourages allowing the students to use calculators to
handle the computations involved and graph the results.
The effort to craft the problem sets began in the
summer of 1994, with support from a $150,000 grant from the
National Science Foundation. The initial problems were
piloted at a number of high schools and colleges, and
refined accordingly. The project received third place
recognition in the first, nationwide INPUT (Innovative
Programs Using Technology) competition in 1996.
"Projects for Precalculus" includes both an
instructor's version, with an answer key, that was written
to supplement any pre-calculus text, and a student version
that was redesigned to accompany "Contemporary Pre-Calculus:
A Graphing Approach, 2nd Edition," written by Thomas W.
Hungerford and also released by Saunders College Publishing.