Plenary Speaker Profile (2009-10)
Al Cuoco
Director of the Center for Mathematics Education
Educational Development Center, Inc.
Beyond Topics: Some Organizing Principles for a Coherent Approach to Algebra

Internet navigation, spreadsheet use, financial decision making, and cell phone programming all require the abilities to reason about calculations, develop algorithms, use symbols, and describe relationships. These core algebraic skills are often missed by specifying course content through lists of topics. This talk will look at alternatives and discuss how organizing algebra around these mathematical habits of mind can bring coherence to the subject and help students surmount some notorious difficulties.

Al Cuoco is Senior Scientist and Director of the Center for Mathematics Education at Education Development Center. He is lead author for "The CME Project," a four-year NSF-funded high school curriculum, published by Pearson. He also co-directs "Focus on Mathematics," a mathematics-science partnership that has established a mathematical community of mathematicians, teachers, and mathematics educators. The partnership evolved from his 18-year collaboration with Glenn Stevens on Boston University's PROMYS for Teachers, a professional development program for teachers based on an immersion experience in mathematics. Al taught high school mathematics to a wide range of students in the Woburn, Massachusetts public schools from 1969 until 1993, including 10 years experience in AP calculus and 20 years experience teaching a linear algebra course that he and his colleagues designed. A student of Ralph Greenberg, he holds a Ph.D. from Brandeis, with a thesis and research in Iwasawa theory. He draws constantly on his experience both as a mathematician and a teacher in his work in curriculum development, professional development, and education policy, and as co-editor of the Mathematics Teacher column "Delving Deeper." His recent book, published by MAA, is "Mathematical Connections: a Companion for Teachers and Others," but his favorite publication is a 1991 paper in the American Mathematical Monthly, described by his wife as "an attempt to explain a number system that no one understands with a picture that no one can see."