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Column One: Curriculum

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The National Building Museum in Washington is offering a teaching guide to secondary school educators leading students on expeditions to the nation's capital.

"Washington: Symbol and City'' was originally created to complement the museum's ongoing exhibition of the same name. But museum officials recognized its uses are much broader and have begun promoting it as a resource to encourage students to think about Washington's architecture before they even arrive there.

Students are asked, for example, to identify six government buildings they will see on their trip, to list the ideals the buildings are meant to convey, and to compare their preconceptions of the buildings against the views they form after their visit.

Copies of the guide can be obtained for $2 each by writing to Public Affairs, National Building Museum, 401 F Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001. Although admission to the museum is free, groups should make a reservation by calling (202) 272-2448.

The Milbank Memorial Library at Teachers College, Columbia University has acquired a collection of more 1,500 mathematics textbooks and scholarly works that give a rare insight into the pedagogical materials formerly used in schools behind the Iron Curtain.

"It may very well be that educational historians of the future will have to journey to Teachers College to see the textbooks that were used before the fall of the communist governments,'' said Jane P. Franck, the library's director, who noted that the books "may not exist in the countries of their origin.''

The works were acquired by the library over the last two years using a $130,000 grant from the U.S Education Department.

They will be added to library's David Eugene Smith Collection, which honors a distinguished math-education professor who taught at the college from 1901 to 1926.

The materials, not all of which come from Communist nations, originated in such such far-flung countries as England, Lithuania and China. They were acquired through a variety of channels, including a two-week collecting tour of central and eastern European nations by library personnel.

While math may seem an apolitical subject, Jennifer Govan, who directed the project, said there is a wealth of social history intertwined with the theorums and word problems.

She noted, for example, that the Romanian textbooks carry an obligatory picture of the deposed and later executed Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu.

Many of the items are displayed in a continuing exhibition in the library.--D.V. & P.W.

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