Plenary Speaker Profile (2006-7)
Solomon Garfunkel
Executive Director
Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications (COMAP)
Putting the Cart Before the Horse: An analogy for mathematics instruction, with Susan L. Forman

With Susan L. Forman

Most mathematics textbooks and, hence, instructors, teach the tools of problem solving (filling students' carts) before making brief, if any, reference to the kinds of authentic problems those skills can be used to solve. Our presentation will put forward the notion that in an applications-based course, the driving force (the horse) is an interesting, authentic problem that will motivate students to learn the skills needed to solve the problem.

We will present examples of problems in mathematics and science that will challenge students and help them to understand the necessity of learning the requisite skills. Problems will be selected from both high school and college mathematics ranging from developmental mathematics through calculus and more advanced topics.

Dr. Garfunkel received his PhD in mathematical logic from the University of Wisconsin in 1967. He served on the mathematics faculties of Cornell University and the University of Connecticut at Storrs for eleven years and has dedicated the last 25 years to research and development efforts in mathematics education. He has been the Executive Director of COMAP since its inception in 1980. He has directed a wide variety of projects, including UMAP (Undergraduate Mathematics and its Applications Project) and HiMAP (High School Mathematics and its Applications Project), both funded by the NSF. He is currently co-director of the Applications Reform in Secondary Education (ARISE) project, a comprehensive curriculum development project for secondary school mathematics. He directed three telecourse projects including Against All Odds: Inside Statistics, and In Simplest Terms: College Algebra, for the Annenberg/CPB Project. These television series introduce cutting edge contemporary mathematics, such as the work of 20th century pioneers like Kurt Godel and Kenneth Arrow, to ordinary audiences in an interesting manner. Dr. Garfunkel was Chair of the National Academy of Sciences, MSEB Committee on the Preparation of High School Teachers.