Launchings from the CUPM Curriculum Guide:
On Sustaining Curricular Innovation and Renewal

David M. Bressoud August, 2005

Recommendation 6: Provide faculty support for curricular and instructional improvement.

Mathematical sciences departments and institutional administrators should encourage, support and reward faculty efforts to improve the efficacy of teaching and strengthen curricula.

Of the twenty-two recommendations in the CUPM Curriculum Guide, this is the only one that is directed exclusively to administrators and that needs to be heeded by those above the department level. I want to say a bit more about carrying the case for support to chairs, deans, and provosts; but then I want to focus on tapping into the support networks that already exist.

One of the most useful resources for making the case for greater support for curricular and instructional improvement is the AMS publication Towards Excellence [1]. While written for doctoral institutions, much of its advice is relevant to all departments of mathematical sciences, in particular:

2. Make a commitment to quality undergraduate instruction.
8. Individualize faculty workloads.
9. Expand the reward system.

Under this last piece of advice, the AMS recommends that

“There should be clear standards of excellence for those whose greatest achievements are in teaching or other educational activities, and faculty who meet those standards should share in faculty rewards, both financially and through promotion in rank.” [1, p 35]

Even more useful than statements such as this are the descriptions of the departments that are successful, the advice given by a university president, a dean, and three chairs, and the summaries of other useful documents, especially the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics report Recognition and Rewards in the Mathematical Sciences [2].

Another important publication is the MAA’s Guidelines for Programs and Departments in the Undergraduate Mathematical Sciences [3] which lays out in precise detail what it takes to run a successful department including the need for planning and periodic review. This booklet has recommendations for hiring and evaluation of faculty, curriculum development, and support for students. It also describes the resources that a department will need if it is to carry out its mission.

No one who is truly successful in implementing curricular or instructional change gets all of their support from within their own institution. We all rely on networks of others. First and foremost is the MAA itself. Undergraduate teaching is one of the dominant themes in its journals, in the books it publishes, at its national and sectional meetings, and in the work of its committees. More focused communities can be found in its Special Interest Groups (SIGMAAs), especially SIGMAA on RUME (Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education), SIGMAA Stat-Ed (Statistics Education), HOM SIGMAA (History of Mathematics), SIGMAA QL (Quantitative Literacy), and SIGMAA TAHSM (Teaching Advanced High School Mathematics).

One of the most useful networks is Project NExT (New Experiences in Teaching), designed for faculty beginning or having just completed their first year of college/university teaching. This is a yearlong professional development opportunity addressing a variety of issues in undergraduate mathematics education, linking participants electronically for resources and support, and encouraging their active participation in the broader mathematical community. One of its most useful roles is to provide continuing contacts among the Fellows and the Consultants. Those of us who are too old to qualify as Fellows can get involved as Consultants and still reap the benefits of this extensive network. An article on Project NExT was published in the Notices in 2000 [4].

The MAA has also started a series of Professional Enhancement Program (PREP) workshops, most of which address the teaching of specific courses such as linear algebra, several variable calculus, and geometry; the use of specific technologies such as Maple and Geometer’s Sketchpad; or areas of mutual concern in the undergraduate curriculum such as quantitative literacy.
Many other organizations and resources are listed in the CUPM Illustrative Resources. A lot of very good work has been done in determining what will improve curricula and instruction. Those who work in these areas need recognition for their efforts, but they also need to be part of the greater community from which they can learn what works and how it can be implemented effectively.

[1] Towards Excellence: Leading a Doctoral Mathematics Department in the 21st Century, John Ewing, editor, American Mathematical Society, Providence, RI, 1999.

[2] Recognition and Rewards in the Mathematical Sciences, Report of the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics, Committee on Professional Recognition and Rewards, American Mathematical Society, Providence, RI, 1994.

[3] Guidelines for Programs and Departments in the Undergraduate Mathematical Sciences, revised edition, Mathematical Association of America, Washington, DC, 2000.

[4] Joseph A. Gallian, Aparna Higgins, Matt Hudelson, Jon Jacobsen, Tammy Lefcourt, and T. Christine Stevens, Project NexT, Notices of the AMS, 217–220, February 2000.

Do you know of programs, projects, or ideas that should be included in the CUPM Illustrative Resources?

Submit resources at

We would appreciate more examples that document experiences with the use of technology as well as examples of interdisciplinary cooperation.

David Bressoud is DeWitt Wallace Professor of Mathematics at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, he was one of the writers for the Curriculum Guide, and he currently serves as Chair of the CUPM. He wrote this column with help from his colleagues in CUPM, but it does not reflect an official position of the committee. You can reach him at