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Transformational Change Efforts: Student Engagement in Mathematics through an Institutional Network for Active Learning

Wendy M. Smith, Matthew Voigt, April Ström, David C. Webb, and W. Gary Martin eds.
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[Reviewed by
Andrzej Sokolowski
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Reforms in mathematics education gravitate at large, toward content improvement, and a few focus on techniques of engaging students in active learning. The book Transformational Change Efforts; Student Engagement in Mathematics through an Institutional Network for Active Learning by Smith, Voigt, Strom, Web, and Martin proposes a framework for active learning to enhance Precalculus through Calculus courses. The book is designed as a research study, followed by the SEMINAL project whose findings are summarized in the book. 
The volume consists of four parts that progressively immerse the readers in the SEMINAL project's theoretical foundations, research methods, and interventions applied to six case studies. Detailed descriptions of these studies and their findings are clustered in tables called Key Takeaways that make findings easily accessible. Readers can find these tables throughout the book content, especially in Chapter 17.
Each part of the book offers fresh insight into active learning. For example, the research described in Chapter 9 suggests that identifying phases of prior reforms that did not work and building upon these methods can be more productive than launching own reforms. Chapter 10 underlines the positive effects of the flexibility of leadership in allowing faculty to implement active learning. The following book chapters examine other layers of designing Precalculus courses that would better prepare students to take Calculus courses with active learning set up as the priority.
While the book's objective was to address the logistics of active learning rather than improving Precalculus content, room for such interactions exists considering that the ultimate product of such studies is not only to encourage more students to take advanced calculus courses but also and have them succeed. Active learning can be organized individually and in groups. Does this depend on the nature of the knowledge at stake? The authors suggest, e.g., worksheets for the students that seem to mirror traditional calculus concepts. Can pre-calculus students be offered also activities that develop their mathematical reasoning to meet calculus expectations?  While the book stands out for its comprehensive findings, examining the effects of active learning on the function of knowledge is seen as worthy of consideration.


Andrzej Sokolowski, Ph.D., authored several books and journal papers on developing students' mathematical reasoning skills to better understand math applications, especially in physics. He also teaches mathematics and physics courses at Lone Star College, TX, USA.