The Vision Thing

  • The Vision Thing

    A Learning Organization for the 21st Century

    By Matt Larson, NCTM President

    I chose to devote my first President’s Message to membership instead of to my overall vision for NCTM because I think membership should be our highest priority—with special attention to providing value to our members. But I’d also like to share my vision of the future of NCTM and what I hope to make the focus of my two years as president. These too are closely connected with membership.

    To be a robust and effective 21st-century learning organization, NCTM must determine first of all what are the most important goods and services that we can provide for our members and how best to produce and deliver them. And to retain members, we must give them something valuable that they can’t get anywhere else. We need to move beyond traditional media for delivery, ensuring that members receive information in a form that that they want and will use. But we should also press for innovation—both within successful existing programs and services and through the development of new ones.

    Reshaping Classroom Resources, Professional Development, and Conferences

    NCTM’s recently formed Classroom Resources Committee is now creating supplemental classroom resources called ARCs (Activities with Rigor and Coherence). These new ARCs have been reviewed and field-tested, are of exceptional quality, and are being produced on a scale unprecedented in NCTM’s history. Another recent development, our merger with the Math Forum, has given us an entrée into providing sustained professional development through contracted services to districts and schools, which is a new and exciting enterprise for NCTM and its members.

    A traditional strength of NCTM has been its conferences, and today’s rapidly evolving landscape still has a place for large conferences, which offer unparalleled face-to-face networking opportunities. But we’re trying to expand beyond the model of a meeting offering only hundreds of concurrent sessions over three days. One way to build on well-established success is expanding the meeting experience with online, ongoing opportunities after the event—something we pioneered successfully at last fall’s regional conferences—an idea that was brought to us as a need by the membership. Extending the conference experience is an example of NCTM listening to its members and responding. 

    Although the format of these multiple-session experiences has changed over time, one of the things we’ve heard is that attendees would like more focused gatherings. Taking this into account, later this year we’re unveiling Innov8, a professional development experience that will focus on one specific issue—supporting learners who struggle with mathematics. The 2017 Innov8 Conference will address issues of Access, Equity, and Empowerment. In addition to presenting an entire program around a single narrowly defined topic, these conferences will encourage attendees to participate as part of a team to gain a more grounded understanding of ways to effect change in their own setting. Registrations are by teams, but individuals can still register and will be given an opportunity to work with a group throughout the event. In addition, in December we launch a new joint professional development effort with Solution Tree at the Mathematics in a PLC at Work Summit in Orlando.

    Widening and Deepening Organizational Influence

    Being an NCTM member has different kinds of value. There are the tangible benefits you receive and the products you value—like the journals you get with your membership and the discounts available to you on NCTM books and conferences. But there are also the ancillary benefits—less tangible but still very real—that you receive from NCTM’s work on behalf of the profession.

    One of the most positive developments in NCTM’s evolution has been its growing footprint in the policy arena and its increasing involvement in the development of education policy. The Council has gone from being unknown, ignored, and excluded to being an organization of influence. It’s now a trusted resource for legislators and policymakers and widely consulted as an authoritative voice on issues related to mathematics education and STEM learning. Much of the credit for NCTM’s greater presence in the policy arena goes to past-president Diane Briars and Associate Executive Director Ken Krehbiel. I thank both of them for their dedication to this important, but often underappreciated work of the Council. Although developing or influencing policy is the primary focus of the Council’s advocacy, this work also serves as a means of engaging and educating the public and families about what good mathematics instruction and learning look like.

    NCTM’s advocacy work benefits members, but it benefits the entire profession as well. And even though advocacy in the policy arena may not be your primary reason for joining NCTM, it’s a way in which your membership supports mathematics education and education in the broader sense.

    New programs, new professional development opportunities, the Math Forum, highly regarded and well-established journals, books, and conferences are all elements of NCTM as an evolving, vibrant 21st-century learning organization. Whether it’s by continually improving what we’ve always offered or by developing and presenting new programs and opportunities, the Council is striving to be an indispensable part of the support that teachers need to give each and every student the highest quality mathematics education possible—now and in the future.

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    J Michael Shaughnessy - 6/18/2016 12:34:24 AM
    Will be interested in how NCTM's step into contracted PD goes. Especially interested in what form 'sustained' will take. This is a direction I've felt NCTM should go for a long time. it's about time.

    Johnny Lott - 6/16/2016 3:15:34 PM
    Thanks Matt. It is good that NCTM is changing with the times. In the past, it has taken much too long to make decisions and to move forward with an agenda. Good luck in making that happen.

    Judy Chase-Marshall - 6/15/2016 8:42:18 PM
    I am looking forward to trying these tasks in my 5th grade classroom. Thank you for providing us with ARCS. This gives me some real insight on what rigor looks like in a lesson.