Math in a Cultural Context (MCC) is a long-term and ongoing set of interrelated federally funded projects. Central to MCC is its long-term collaboration with Yup’ik elders, teachers, and Alaskan school districts to develop culturally based curricular materials, especially supplemental math curriculum for elementary school students. At this time, MCC has published ten different supplemental math modules: three at the second grade, one for grade 3-5, and six at the sixth grade (most of these are applicable to 7th grade students). The modules also include supporting materials such as DVD clips of teachers’ implementing exemplary lessons, written case studies, a Guide to Implementing MCC, literacy activities and stories that develop cultural, mathematical, and contextual connections for students.
Most importantly, most MCC modules have been tested using either a quasi or experimental design with findings repeatedly showing that MCC students outperform comparable control group students who use their regular math curriculum. This occurs at statistically significant levels and with moderate effect sizes. For further information, please see the 44(3): 1-100, December 2005 and for more recent data see Journal of American Indian Education 46(3):94-116 which includes the results of our most rigorous study to date. Again, the second grade students in this study outperformed their control group counterparts on key subscales such as measuring, representation (graphing and tables), grouping, and place value. This occurred in urban districts and rural districts; novice and experienced teachers using MCC each outperformed novice and experienced teachers using control group materials. This reform-oriented curriculum, designed for Alaskan students, is one of the few curricula that has been so extensively studied and meets the highest research standards. It is one of the very few projects and studies for Alaska Native and American Indian (AN/AI) students that shows such powerful results.
At the present time, MCC has two distinct and interrelated projects that are open to a limited number of school districts in Alaska . Each project is funded by the U.S. Department of Education.
The first grant is entitled: Returning the Gift: Systematic Implementation of an Effective Culturally Based Math Curriculum and Professional Development. The major goal of this project is for project school district’s to adopt and adapt MCC into their existing school curriculum. To support these efforts the Returning the Gift offers systematic professional development to project district’s with an emphasis on project districts becoming increasingly responsible for the professional development component. To accomplish this Returning the Gift offers a Summer Math Institute for teachers. The teachers take a lead role in their district as they encourage others to use MCC. In addition, MCC staff works with and co-leads professional development workshops at district sites and shorter terms workshops. Through a systematic approach to professional development this grant anticipates improving the math performance of all project students which is the ultimate goal of this project. This grant uses quantitative data to assess how well students are performing—subscale analyses allows us to pinpoint particular math topics and concepts and how well students perform. Further analyses, both quantitative and qualitative, provides information on how best to integrate MCC, contextual variables reveal insights into differences within and across districts that affects students’ math performance. Use of data then drives the project by guiding changes in professional development, the mix of MCC with other curricula, and other changes that can strengthen this reform.
The second grant also funded by the U.S. Department of Education is entitled Determining the Potential Efficacy of 6th grade Math in a Cultural Context.
The purpose of this grant is threefold:
1. Implement four 6th grade modules.
2. Strengthen these modules through professional development.
3. Test their effectiveness to determine if they are ready for a more rigorous experimental design study.
These two grants provide school districts with a good opportunity to use MCC’s modules, professional development strand, and data to guide decision-making on how best to integrate MCC into districts’ existing curriculum.