Max Bell

Max Bell is Professor Emeritus, Department of Education and the Physical Sciences Division at the University of Chicago and is affiliated with the University of Chicago Center for Mathematics and Science Education (CEMSE). He is one of the founding authors of Everyday Mathematics, and part of the Author panel that has responsibility for general oversight of the Publishing Agreement for Everyday Mathematics and of the Center Agreement that established CEMSE.

Bell shifted in 1960 from teaching high school students to teaching teachers in the then-new MAT program at the University of Chicago. (He had earlier been in an influential NSF funded Academic Year Institute for mathematics teachers conducted by the UC mathematics department.) He spent a decade as MAT Mathematics Coordinator while also working with UC people, SMSG, and other organizations on reform-oriented secondary school mathematics materials. But as it became very clear that many children (and nearly all Chicago inner city children) entered secondary school with little understanding of mathematics, Bell shifted his attention to elementary school mathematics instruction and teacher preparation.

Bell's widely reprinted 1973 article ("What does 'everyman' really need from school mathematics?") set an ambitious content agenda that anticipated the 1989 NCTM "Standards." Structured interviews of several hundred five to nine year old children clearly showed that their mathematics learning capabilities were much greater than had been supposed. At the same time, textbook analyses and interviews with teachers revealed an essentially vacuous primary school mathematics curriculum. With those foundations established by 1985, Bell joined with others in the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project (UCSMP) in research, development, field testing, and widespread dissemination of the Everyday Mathematics curriculum for grades K–6.

Bell continues his interest in improvement of elementary school science and mathematics teaching, now focused on maximizing the potential for "educative curricula" (from which teachers learn as they teach) to attack well known problems of scale in helping in-service teachers better understand and teach science and mathematics. Also, Bell and CEMSE colleagues are just beginning conceptualization and specifications for a coherent "web based curriculum" for any individual who for any reason wishes to learn mathematics, from basic counting and arithmetic through data analysis, algebra, or geometry.

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