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About Our Project

In Making Mathematics (1999-2002), middle and high school students of all skill levels explored open-ended mathematics projects, often with the help of their teachers and parents. Students generated ideas, discovered patterns, posed questions, developed conjectures, and built proofs of mathematical claims. To develop these mathematical skills, we connected students, teachers, and parents with a professional mathematician who provided advice, encouragement, and resources via electronic mail.

Making Mathematics introduced students, teachers, and parents to mathematics as a research discipline, rather than a body of facts to be memorized. Our mathematics research projects developed students' investigative skills and creativity, and they emphasized the habits of mind used by working mathematicians and scientists. Students find these methods stimulating, rewarding, and useful not only in mathematics but also in other academic disciplines. In fact, these habits of mind are of lasting value, no matter what students do in life.

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Making Mathematics mentors included university professors, mathematics graduate students, and industry professionals who apply mathematics in their work. As mentors, they guided students and teachers through the often-thorny process of mathematics research, encouraging, critiquing, and directing them to needed background materials. They helped students to record their findings, organize their work, and shape more formal presentations of their results. Mentors exchanged about one electronic mail message a week with their research partners over several months.


Making Mathematics teachers used our projects in their middle and high school classrooms, independent studies, or mathematics clubs. In addition, they worked with mentors to discuss issues of mathematics, curriculum, implementation, and student motivation. Teachers also got valuable help from our Teacher Handbook and from the warm-ups, hints, solutions, and teaching notes available for our classroom-tested projects. Making Mathematics supported teachers as they explored ways to include project-based learning in their classrooms and curricula.


Students from grades 7-12 participated in Making Mathematics either through a teacher, with a parent, or independently. Choosing a project from our Web site or working on one of their own, students and their mentors exchanged mathematical ideas over several months. As students explored and experimented, they learned that each project had many valid approaches and levels on which it could be explored. They also learned about fundamental mathematical concepts (many of which are not covered in standard curricula) at the same time that they resolved engaging mysteries. Our projects provided students with a chance to experiment and be creative, satisfy their curiosity, and own their mathematical discoveries.

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