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NCTM and Common Core Standards

Letter to NCTM Members:

A draft of the Common Core Standards for mathematics, K–12, developed through the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA), was released for public comment on March 10. Previous drafts have raised some questions among NCTM members: Does NCTM support these standards? How are they aligned with NCTM’s Principles and Standards for School Mathematics and its other Standards publications? How was NCTM involved in developing the Common Core Standards? In what ways can and will NCTM support these standards?  This message is to address these and other questions you might have.

NCTM strongly supports the goals, aims, and intent of the Common Core Standards initiative to ensure that every American student graduates from high school with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the 21st century. Since early drafts were released in September, I have consulted with the Board of Directors and NCTM members with curriculum expertise in providing feedback and comments on several formative drafts provided to NCTM. Teams of NCTM members have met with the lead writers, and I have met with the leaders of the Common Core Initiative. I want to thank all the NCTM members who have generously volunteered their time and applied their expertise to this task.

Although the Council has been included and involved in this process, the current draft of these standards raises some concerns. Although some elements of the current draft are consistent with NCTM’s positions—particularly, those articulated in the Council’s Standards publications—other elements need further development and interpretation. NCTM’s public comments on the current draft will be posted soon on the NCTM Web site. Throughout this process NCTM has made the following points:

  • A challenging and coherent curriculum, focused in scope and deep in meaning, is a critically important step in learning mathematics with understanding.
  • NCTM’s official positions, particularly as delineated in the Council’s landmark Standards publications, address much of the content that is included in the Common Core Standards. These positions find clearest expression in NCTM’s Guiding Principles for Mathematics Curriculum and Assessment, Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, Focus in High School Mathematics:  Reasoning and Sense Making, and Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten through Grade 8 Mathematics: A Quest for Coherence. 
  • Problem solving, reasoning and sense making, connections within mathematics and to other contexts, mathematical representations, communication, and the use of technology are essential elements of school mathematics and need to be represented and well integrated in the Common Core Standards.

Submit Comments 

I strongly encourage you to take this opportunity to review and comment on these standards. In an organization as large as ours, different viewpoints are not only possible, but expected. Because these standards have the potential to directly affect all students, teachers, and everyone involved in mathematics education, it is important that the voices of mathematics educators be heard in this process. You can submit comments until April 2. Please send a copy of your comments to



Henry S. (Hank) Kepner, Jr.
NCTM President

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