Functions Modeling Change: A Preparation for Calculus is more than just an ordinary textbook for MacArthur High School students. It is a book that one of their teachers, Ann Davidian, helped to author and three MacArthur students contributed to.
Seana Grey and Victoria Yen, both of whom graduated from MacArthur last year and Eric Motylinski, a senior at MacArthur this year, all worked on the book to keep it current and up to date. Motylinski actually even contributed a problem to the book, which is used in classrooms across the country. All three students are recognized in the acknowledgments section of the book and Davidian is listed with the nine college professors and one other high school teacher who authored the textbook.
According to Davidian, there were eight high schools, approximately five years ago who were chosen to pilot pre-calculus materials that were written by the Harvard Consortium, part of a project by the National Science Foundation to increase the standard of what students are learning. Davidian noted that MacArthur was one of the original eight schools chosen and the school has been working on this project ever since.
The preliminary edition of the textbook came out in 1997, at which point the then-authors decided to come out with a first edition of the textbook. It was at that point that Davidian was asked to join the process as an author.
The main authors of the book, Deborah Hughes-Hallett and Eric Connally asked each of the other authors to look at various problems, to rewrite problems and to write new problems. Hughes-Hallett asked Davidian if she had any students who would be interested in updating some of the information for the first edition. Many of the problems were word-based problems with information that was several years old and no longer correct. When Davidian asked the students whom she felt were up to the task if any of them were interested, Grey, Yen, and Motylinski responded.
One example of the work that the MacArthur students did on the textbook was a section of the book on the AIDS epidemic, which Yen and Grey updated with the current data. Motylinski, other than updating many problems for the book, came up with his own idea for a problem while on a skiing vacation. Davidian e-mailed the problem to the authors and according to the proud teacher, "They loved it." Among other things Motylinski updated problems which he felt needed to be changed because they used deutschmarks in the problem and the Euro is the form of currency now being used. It was issues like these that the students felt were important in keeping the book updated.
When asked what this experience meant to the students, Davidian responded, "They're thrilled. To be published at the age of 18!" Davidian went on to note that it is exciting for her students this year to see that past students contributed to their textbook.
"The exciting part about working with this whole project was we were in it from the ground floor. When we first started using the materials they were page proofs on a looseleaf and it was the first draft and then we went through and every year had different materials," said Davidian. The teacher noted that it was not only an exciting experience for the students but for herself as well.
Dr. Herman Sirois, superintendent of the Levittown School District, said that he is very proud that Davidian and her students have been published and noted that the Harvard Consortium program has been so successful that it is now being used at Division Avenue High School as well. "The level of instruction and quality of instruction to produce these three children, the next layer of quality must be up there as well," said Sirois. "I think it's a reflection of what we're coming to expect from our district...I think it's nice for the kids and it's nice for the district too."