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President Sets NCTM Agenda

Shaughnessy by NCTM President J. Michael Shaughnessy
NCTM Summing Up, May 2010

President Sets NCTM Agenda 

This is the first of many opportunities that I will have to share my thoughts with you in the President’s Corner of Summing Up over the next two years. Thank you for your trust and confidence in electing me president of NCTM. I’m looking forward to working with all the great NCTM volunteers and the wonderful NCTM staff on a number of issues and projects during my tenure as your president.

As I begin my term as NCTM president three main issues have emerged that the Council will be concentrating on throughout the year. The first of these involves the Common Core State Standards, spearheaded by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA). NCTM will play a continuing role in providing perspective on those standards and implementation help for members and affiliates as the standards are finalized and sent to all 48 participating states for adoption. Second, the Council will work to follow up on the recommendations for research and practice that have just been released in the report Linking Research and Practice: The NCTM Research Agenda Conference Report. Finally, the Council has launched several new task forces that will create and promote innovative ways for all of us to implement the vision and official position of the Council in NCTM’s recently published Focus in High School Mathematics: Reasoning and Sense Making.

Core Standards 

The public draft of the CCSSO/NGA Common Core Standards was released in early April, and comments and reviews from the final round are being considered. Input and suggestions for revision were sent to the writing team from dozens of professional organizations and many states. Throughout the various drafts of the core standards NCTM has made a constant plea for the inclusion of mathematical processes, especially reasoning and sense making, and the identification of connections both across and within content areas. The Council has constantly pushed for the core standards to be more consistent with the vision set forth in our own Process and Content Standards in Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, published by NCTM in 2000. Over the next few weeks the core standards will be finalized and sent to states to consider for adoption.

As this message goes to press, draft plans from consortia for assessing the Common Core Standards are being shared with the states. Throughout the next several years, as the adoption, interpretation, implementation, and assessment phases of these standards evolve, the Council will continue to advocate for the inclusion of mathematical processes. Problem solving, communications, connections, representation, and critical reasoning are the necessary warp to weave with the weft of content standards. The Council will continue to provide a voice to ensure that fair and equitable access is maintained for all students throughout the implementation and assessment phases of these Common Core Standards.

Research Agenda Project 

The NCTM Research Agenda Project assembled approximately 60 mathematics education researchers and classroom practitioners for a four-day working conference that focused on strengthening the link between research and practice. The participants analyzed over 350 questions generated in seven areas by mathematics education practitioners: assessment, curriculum, equity, student learning, technology, teaching, and teacher preparation or professional development. The report released by the Research Agenda Project, Linking Research and Practice, recommends four goals for NCTM to pursue in research, which is one of the Council’s strategic priorities: (1) emphasize the need for communication and collaboration between practitioners and researchers on issues that are important to practitioners; (2) make practitioners’ research needs, both as initiators and consumers of research, explicit to the mathematics education research community; (3) share a set of research-guiding questions that will focus researchers’ attention on critical problems of practice; and (4) urge funding agencies, policymakers, and other mathematics education stakeholders to support research that is grounded in practitioners’ problems of practice.

The project report has been published on the NCTM Web site. I urge everyone to read it, paying particular attention to the ten summary research-guiding questions that it proposes. Each research-guiding question is accompanied by a set of focused research sub-questions that are of particular importance to classroom mathematics teachers and mathematics supervisors. The research-guiding questions will help to inform the Council’s future interaction with funding agencies and will provide direction for the members of our mathematics education research community throughout the next decade.

New Secondary Initiative 

The NCTM publication Focus in High School Mathematics: Reasoning and Sense Making appeared last fall. Subsequently, two companion topic books, Focus in High School Mathematics: Reasoning and Sense Making in Algebra and Focus in High School Mathematics: Reasoning and Sense Making in Statistics and Probability have also been published. Several other books in this Focus in High School Mathematics series will appear throughout this year. Focus in High School Mathematics: Reasoning and Sense Making in Geometry will be published this summer. At the February meeting of the NCTM Board of Directors, three new task forces were created to continue disseminating and implementing the Council’s position on reasoning and sense making as the primary goals in all mathematics classrooms, particularly secondary school classrooms.

A Resource Task Force will work to assemble existing materials, as well as to develop new materials, publications, and other Web-based resources that promote and support reasoning and sense making for teachers, teacher-leaders, and mathematics students. A Video Library Task Force will collect or develop video clips of students and teachers engaged in reasoning and sense-making activities in regular classrooms—particularly secondary school classrooms, for which such videos are rather scarce. The third task force will create, plan, develop, and conduct a special conference that targets high school mathematics teaching. The theme of this special conference will be Reasoning and Sense Making in Secondary Classrooms. We anticipate that this special NCTM conference will occur in the summer of 2011—most likely in either late July or early August, to accommodate participants from the variety of teaching schedules around the country. Watch for updates on the work of each of these three new task forces throughout the coming academic year.

Future Feature 

In future issues of Summing Up, I will include a President’s task of the month as a way to present mathematics in these messages and as an ongoing series of examples of how to introduce reasoning and sense making in your teaching.

On a final note, we all owe a debt of thanks to outgoing NCTM President Hank Kepner for his dedicated service and hard work for the Council during the last two years. Hank has navigated the NCTM ship through some particularly turbulent waters this past year with the Common Core Standards. Through Hank’s tireless efforts, NCTM has been able to maintain a strong voice and be heard and reckoned with in the Standards discussion. Thank you, Hank, for your thoughtful and passionate leadership, and for your great job mentoring me as the new NCTM President. Hank will continue to serve on the NCTM Board of Directors as Past President for one more year, so luckily I will still be able to tap his wisdom and experience as I step into his large shoes.

Problem to Ponder - an interesting problem from the NCTM President.

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