1. While the ACT theory provided the technology, there was a concerted effort to identify a curriculum that educators wanted to be taught in the classroom. In particular, the project recognized that it was a priority for the schools to teach a curriculum that was in compliance with the NCTM standards (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000) and designed a curriculum around this.

  2. A curriculum was designed that teachers would accept and could implement. A full-year curriculum was developed rather than an enrichment program to be inserted into an existing curriculum. The curriculum was designed with the critical help of teachers with experience in urban classrooms. The computer tutors were used as a support rather than a replacement for the teachers. In this curriculum students spend 40 percent of their time with the computer tutors and 60 percent of their time with other activities. These classroom activities help them transition to their lessons with the tutor and transition those lessons to mathematics that they will have to do without the tutor on paper and in the real world.

  3. A structure was set up for supporting the use of the curriculum and tutors. Before introducing the tutors into a classroom, it has been important to provide professional development time to enable teachers to prepare for the change they are about to experience. A center at Carnegie Mellon was set up for responding to teacher and school problems. As the adoptions grew, a separate company, Carnegie Learning, was created to perform this function and maintain and adapt the materials.

  4. Ultimately, such a curriculum must be financially self-sustaining and it was developed from the beginning with a plausible financial model in mind. In particular, by offering a full grade 9-11 curriculum, it was possible to earn in sales the kind of income that is necessary to sustain this activity.

While the cognitive tutor enterprise illustrates what needs to be done to transition research ideas into the American classroom, it does not represent a complete solution to even high school algebra. Early in the development of the Algebra Cognitive Tutor, a decision was made to place a heavy emphasis on contextualizing algebra to help students make the transition to the formalism. The course has been demonstrated to raise student achievement in urban schools and to reduce the number of students dropping out. However, high-achieving students may not be fully achieving the desired fluency in symbol manipulation and abstract analysis. There is no reason why the cognitive tutors could not more fully address these topics and, in fact, many tutor units do, particularly in the algebra 2 course. However, a more accelerated course may yield better results for high-achieving students.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement