CPM is a project based curriculum that focuses on spiraling thoroughly rather than a curriculum or text that claims to spiral but only does so with review problems at the end of homework section. CPM also attacks challenge or project problems. Again, most text books address these problems with a token "starred" problem at the end of the homework that is marked challenge. Most instructors skip over these problems as they take too much time and energy. CPM focuses on these types of problems to the extent that they are the back bone of the spiraled curriculum.

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Sixty to Seventy percent of the problems that groups work on in the CPM curriculum are using material from a previous lesson. The same can be said of the homework problems. This forces students to learn material and remember it rather than just learn it. As an instructor one of the most frustrating things to hear is a student that walks into the next level class and tells the instructor that they were never taught prerequisite material. Teaching is about listening not telling. With this curriculum, to see any success at all, students must continually complete problems with their group that are from yesterday, last week, last month, or six months ago. When they continually revisit that spiral of material, that material gets locked in place in their brains.
While students are working in groups, they are solving challenge problems with their fellow classmates. The instructor is not telling them solution, they are discovering it themselves. A frustration of teaching mathematics is that students claim, "I don't know where to start" when they run into a word problem. With the CPM curriculum, every day students are solving 4-5 word type problems with their group. They quickly learn they have to start a problem, or they will never finish. Because students are learning high level problems and they are continuously using previous knowledge in their problems, the CPM curriculum does not cover as many different standards as a text book would. Students would be able to use this method in a traditional text book. What students are trading the exposure to material for is a problem solving strategy. Students are learning instead that they can attack any problem with the skills they have maintained throughout the class. This problem solving ability is absent in most traditional text books and curriculum. Therefore, it is my opinion that these students should be stronger at handling day to day mathematical problems in a non-academic environment. As instructors, we have all banged our heads on the wall trying to get our students to learn concepts that are so obscure that they are virtually useless. A CPM student could conceivably solve that obscure problem because they have highly developed problem solving skills.


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