I have had a most fortunate life. I cannot say that there was anything special about it. I was born and raised in Chicago and its suburbs. I have had a deep love of science and engineering for as long as I can remember, taking watches and other mechanical things apart when I was five years old and building wooden models with razors by the time I was 7 or 8. I did not excel in school, but I did ok and found it irrelevant for too much of my day. My love of physics took me to the University of Chicago where a wonderful counselor Sylvia Halperin changed my life’s vector to education. Since the first days I started on that path when I set my goal on revolution, I have sought to combine creativity and technology to enable every child to learn to the fullest extent of their dreams.
I started by teaching physics first in the high school I had attended, Rich Township. It was in those early teaching days that I had the great good fortune to have found the singular idea that led me to the unique artifacts theory of knowledge, After two years and with an itch for some new adventure and climate, I went to Nova High School in Fort Lauderdale to teach Harvard Project Physics and think about the individualization of instruction. Not only did I have a unique teaching opportunity, but once again great good fortune struck, for one of my students decided that I was destined to be her lifelong soul mate and the father of her three children Kori, like her mother an early childhood educator, Brenan, like his father a math educator and curriculum developer, and Arran, a behavioral economist and analytics expert. I started Nova University in science education but could not resist an offer to make educational film loops in Cambridge, MA. This first foray into technology for learning ended after I had helped make about 50 titles, and again good fortune smiled for I quickly got a teaching job in math at a satellite Jr. High School, writing my own curriculum. It broadened my interest from high school physics to K-12 mathematics. I did some teacher training and math curriculum coordination while researching and writing a work on the history and theory of knowledge,
Thanks to an indulgent wife and my passion for the latest technology, I bought an Apple II in February 1978 and soon after started Learningways helping design and build interactive tools and platforms like Explore-a-Story, Point of View, ProcessWriter, and MathProcessor. After selling Learningways, I became a chief science officer participating in the design of educational technology products. In 1999, I left Pearson and founded Enablearning, teaming up with Luke Biewald, Larry Reeves, Peter Mili and others to develop a next generation technology platform for learning, the EnableMath Program. EnableMath had been successfully applied in college developmental mathematics programs for the past several years, raising success rates in these courses by 50%, but could not compete with the power of the textbook publishers. In 2007, I published a book, New Physical Ideas Are Here Needed, outlining my vision for a new technology of education, one that will enable every student to achieve his or her educational goals.
Larry, Peter, and I founded Sustainablearning, a 501(c)(3)in 2011 to reenvision math education with its What if Math, (www.whatifmath.org) spreadsheet math treating mathematics as an experimental creative science based on functional rather than algorithmic thinking. This curriculum would provide the problem solving skills students will use in their 21st century jobs and life. Since then Peter and I have been developing What if Math Labs as lessons, demonstrations for using spreadsheets as laboratories, treating math as, in Lynn Steen’s words, a “laboratory science” and integrating math as a true part of STEM/STEAM.
With the Lesley University Creativity Commons, Ryan McQuade, and Professor Martha McKenna, I helped develop Sidewalk Math (www.sidewalkmath.com), joining math and art to enable young children to build number sense through physical patternmaking. We have expanded the Sidewalk Math concept to carpets made for schools. I became a member of the Lesley University Board of Trustees in 2013.
These last 5 years working with Peter to develop a new vision of mathematics education, one that reinvents math education for the digital age, has been the most fulfilling of my life. Not only has it led Peter and me to reenvision math education. It has let me to reimagine all of education replacing the 3Rs with the 4Cs, enabling most all of our kids to achieve a college education at half its current cost by not only by making technology central to learning by redefining not only how but what our kids learn, but by placing the power of learning in the hands of our kids. I hope you will read Make it Real and tell me what you have learned. I look forward to your vision.