Polk Brothers Program

The Polk Bros. Program has as its mission the improvement of mathematics education in the Chicago Public Schools. The program aims to achieve this mission by offering classes to CPS teachers. Both courses on methods of teaching and on mathematical content are offered.

Each summer, a course covering a modern approach to teaching mathematics, known as the “Open Approach” is offered. This method of teaching centers around the teachers learning that mathematics is not a memory game, but a creative and beautiful subject. The teachers are given model problems and are asked to solve them in as many different ways as they can, and this often has the desired effect of completely changing a participant’s view of mathematics. Rather than viewing the method of solution as a strict memorized procedure, the teachers are amazed that they, themselves, are actually able to come up with different methods of solution.

Also during the summer, and the academic year that follows, content courses are offered. The topics range from an extremely gentle introduction to pre-calculus/calculus to geometry, algebra and number theory. Again, in these courses the main goal is to show teachers the beauty of mathematics and to get them to deeply understand what they teach. Very basic review of the prerequisites is always included, but somewhat more advanced topics are also considered, and just as in the methods course, the teaching of the content courses features an exceptionally interactive format with extensive participation by the teachers so that they can achieve deep appreciation of the material presented, a fundamental part of our mission.