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The SimCalc Vision and Contributions: Democratizing Access to Important Mathematics

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While still teaching at SUNY at Buffalo, in the late 1960s, I became familiar with the new program, proposed and run by Jim Kaput, at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, called START. The purpose of the program was to help students to overcome, in their freshman year, deficiencies in Algebra and to help them to proceed onwards to a math, science, or engineering degree. Naturally, the students presenting deficiencies come from different cultural environments, revealing the broad social concern of the program. These were the pioneer ideas that led to the SimCalc Project, launched in 1994 with the main objective of helping students to advance in Algebra and Calculus. In 2007 I was invited to join the Advisory Board of the James J. Kaput Center for Research and Innovation in Mathematics Education at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Later, we had the opportunity of receiving the visits of researchers from the Kaput Center at UNIBAN/Universidade Bandeirantes de São Paulo. There the visitors made it very clear that the proposals of SimCalc are of much benefit for practically every country.

The core of the SimCalc Project is the idea of Jim Kaput to let Mathematics Education spring out of change and variation, which he conceptualized as a major strand of mathematical development leading through Algebra and beyond Calculus. The seminal idea is to enliven and enrich mathematics in every grade level and simultaneously to give students access to critically important mathematical concepts much earlier. The development of specific technologies to achieve this goal is key for the success of this ambitious educational proposal. In this development, research of SimCalc must review, critically, the most relevant current educational practices, which largely reflect our past and, at the same time, venture into the future, proposing new directions for education. The same care of critically regarding the past is present in their views of the future. Thus, they avoid being trapped by the marvels suggested by the new, amazing, technologies.
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