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Dordt professor begins new textbook during sabbatical
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07/6/2009
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Dr. Calvin Jongsma
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Rome, Egypt, Mesopotamia, algebra \uc1\u8230?
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If this word pattern seems jarring, then you haven\uc1\u8217?t heard
about Dr. Calvin Jongsma\uc1\u8217?s latest project. He\uc1\u8217?s
writing a middle school mathematics education textbook organized around
the history of mathematics.
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He began work on the project during a half\_time sabbatical from Dordt
College this past year. Seven sections have been completed (out of
a projected 32 sections), and he\uc1\u8217?ll continue the process
with a quarter\_time release during the next two years, thanks to
project support from the Andreas Center for Reformed Scholarship and
Service, a privately funded organization that provides opportunities
for Dordt College faculty, students, and staff members to develop
Reformed Christian scholarship and service that engages today\uc1\u8217?s
global community.
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Dr. Jongsma is a professor of mathematics at Dordt College, and his
area of expertise is math history. Among the courses he regularly
teaches is Math 109, a class for education majors seeking a middle
school teaching endorsement for mathematics.
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\uc1\u8220?I\uc1\u8217?ve always had an interest in pre\_college mathematics
education, but this is my first serious attempt to combine it in a
more public way with my background and expertise,\uc1\u8221? says
Jongsma. \uc1\u8220?The history of mathematics has the potential to
give prospective teachers deeper insight into the material they will
be teaching. It also forces them to look at the material in fresh
ways, much of which can be brought into their teaching as enrichment
material or as a contribution to an integrated thematic unit.\uc1\u8221?
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Some examples of math history in the opening sections of the book
are Roman numerals and the abacus; Egyptian numeration; Mesopotamian
sexagesimal fractions; and Greek theory of ratio and proportion. Because
there are few textual resources on middle school math history, Jongsma
has done a lot of research and developed detailed outlines for his
Math 109 classes, which he is now fleshing out into textbook material.
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\uc1\u8220?My intent is to produce a commercial product for pre\_service
and in\_service teachers, but I also hope that this might spawn teacher\_written
materials for use in their own middle school classrooms.\uc1\u8221?
Jongsma will continue using his textbook material in Math 109, but
would also like to use it for a graduate level course in mathematics
education if sufficient interest exists.
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Jongsma says a historical focus in mathematics gives a developmental
component to student mathematics education, as well as a broad context
in which one can discuss structural issues and aspects of religious
orientation and contemporary applications for mathematics. \uc1\u8220?I
think this approach offers exciting potential for implementing Dordt's
general educational perspective in a more specialized setting.\uc1\u8221?
\par}
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Jongsma has already gotten some positive feedback on his work from
Dordt students, and has also received input from professors at an
Association of Christians in the Mathematical Sciences conference
held at Wheaton College in May.
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In June he presented a three day seminar for Dordt educators and others
interested in middle school mathematics education. The Andreas Center
sponsored the workshop, with eight participants attending and offering
their response to three 90\_minute sessions. Participating were Dordt
professors Dennis De Jong, Dennis Vander Plaats, Tim Van Soelen, Sharon
Rosenboom, and Valorie Zonnefeld; a Dordt student, Autumn Den Boer;
Sioux Center Christian teacher Rebecca De Smith; and a collaborator
on the textbook who teaches mathematics education courses at Trinity
Christian College, Dave Klanderman. \'46eedback from participants
will be useful for revising the text and for further writing.
\par}
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Jongsma hasn\uc1\u8217?t begun marketing the textbook yet, but there
seems to be a fair bit of interest in the project from those who have
heard about it. \uc1\u8220?Given how unusual the approach is, it may
be difficult to get a commercial textbook publisher to take on the
enterprise,\uc1\u8221? concedes Jongsma. \uc1\u8220?I hope to send
some sample sections out to publishers sometime in the coming year.\uc1\u8221?
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In the meantime, he\uc1\u8217?ll continue developing more sections
of the book, using notes, outlines, and further research. Jongsma
learned and is using LaTeX software for the project, a state of the
art publication software specifically designed for mathematics.
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Jongsma has previously written a privately published textbook for
a course he teaches each spring in Discrete Mathematics (Math 212).
\uc1\u8220?Students have appreciated it and find it useful for helping
them do advanced mathematics,\uc1\u8221? says Jongsma \uc1\u8220?I
hope that this new text will have similar success.\uc1\u8221?
\par}
}