Letter: 'Reform' mathematics is not the only answer

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In 1997, I started the Maine Mathematics Science & Engineering Talent Search program. In 2011, I was selected to a nationwide group to resolve the shortage of engineers in the U.S. In 2005, I received the University of Maine Educator Recognition Award for MMSETS.

Over the years, we had over 4,000 students in the program, many of whom have continued on to Ivy League schools, and the best engineering and business schools. Wherever MMSETS students go, they graduate in the top 25 percent of their class.

The key to our success is in the problem-solving method; the coherent development of mathematical ideas, from simple to challenging, complex problems. The same structure is inherent in the junior engineering concepts we teach in programming or mechanical structures. Our students learn when to add or subtract, relying on the meaning of the situation. Similarly, the students decide from the goal of a program in icon-based programming should be parallel or series, or smaller gear should follow a larger gear or reverse the combination. Our program is very pictorial and lends itself for foundation to algebra and improves spatial vision.

We are teaching in-service teachers how to use the same methods in elementary and middle school mathematics. If we want our students compete internationally, we could look at the curriculum of Singapore; the students from Singapore of grade 4 and 8 are leading in the Trends in International Science and Mathematics Study.

Eva J. Szillery, MMSETS director