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NCTM Action on the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics

Shaughnessy_52010by NCTM President J. Michael Shaughnessy
NCTM Summing Up, November 2010

In my September President’s Message, I pointed to forthcoming reports from two NCTM task forces that worked this summer on recommendations to provide assistance for states, districts, teacher leaders, and teachers who will be implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM). The NCTM Board of Directors reviewed the task forces’ reports at its October meeting, and I want to share with you more details of their work and recommendations.

The first NCTM task force has developed a report that provides details of how the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics fit with NCTM’s major curriculum and standards publications. This report, Making it Happen: A Guide to Interpreting and Implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, is currently in copy editing at NCTM and is on a fast track to be published within four to six weeks.

The report is designed to serve as a valuable tool, highlighting the ways in which NCTM’s signature publications Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, Curriculum Focal Points, and Focus in High School Mathematics already provide significant resources for teachers, schools, and districts working to implement CCSSM. The strongest connection between CCSSM and NCTM’s longstanding work (1989, 2000, 2006, 2009) in establishing standards for mathematics curriculum and instruction can be found between NCTM’s Process Standards and the Standards for Mathematical Practice articulated in CCSSM.

The preeminent message in both the NCTM Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (2000) and CCSSM is the importance of nurturing mathematical thinking and reasoning processes in our students. No bulleted list of specific content standards will hold together as a coherent, meaningful whole, or make any significant contribution to our students’ growth in mathematics, without interweaving mathematical “practices.” Mathematics curricula must show students the power of reasoning and sense making as they explore mathematical structures, of communication as they construct viable arguments, and of multiple representations as they engage in mathematical modeling. The close connections between the NCTM Process Standards and the CCSSM Standards for Mathematical Practice are represented in the chart below.

The upcoming NCTM publication, Making it Happen, will provide a deeper analysis of the connections between the NCTM Process Standards and detail the potential of the existing NCTM resources to interpret and implement CCSSM.



The second task force whose work I now report on brought together representatives of NCTM, the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM), the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (AMTE), and the Association of State Supervisors of Mathematics (ASSM).  This joint task force had a twofold charge:

1) Generate recommendations for actions and resources that are needed to help teachers with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSSM). 

2) Consider ways that the four national organizations can collaborate in supporting various groups (teachers, teacher leaders and educators, school and district leaders, parents) in implementing the CCSSM and advancing the vision of school mathematics held by the organizations. 

This task force developed a set of proactive steps to be taken by NCTM and the other three participating mathematics education organizations with regard to CCSSM. The complete report of the Joint Task Force is on the NCTM Web site. On the basis of this report, the NCTM Board of Directors and the presidents and boards of NCSM, AMTE, and ASSSM, have identified five priority actions to be undertaken as quickly as possible:  

  1. Organize and launch a major outreach project with two primary foci:  (a) develop and disseminate a core set—a toolkit—of resources  that consolidate and highlight key messages of our organizations with regard to CCSSM; and (b) organize and host regional meetings of leadership teams to review the resources and plan local strategies for elevating mathematics teaching and learning. 
  2. Appoint a Joint Committee of NCTM, NCSM AMTE, and ASSM to serve as a professionally grounded oversight and advisory group that could, over a period of time, suggest needed actions and inform revisions of CCSSM.
  3. Convene a group of respected teacher development professionals and scholars to conceptualize and create a professional development system at the school, district, and state levels that connects our organizations’ messages with CCSSM (e.g., the CCSSM Standards of Mathematical Practice and the NCTM Process Standards and the Professional Teaching Standards).
  4. Convene an Assessment Working Group to coordinate the field’s best guidance on assessment development and ensure that new student assessments really do address the priorities of the Standards for Mathematical Practice articulated in CCSSM. This includes collaboration with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and SMARTER Balanced Assessment State Consortium.
  5. Develop and launch a research agenda focused on implementation of CCSSM that includes systematic study of the implementation of the standards, monitors the impact on instruction and student learning, and informs revisions of CCSSM.



NCTM has begun work on several of these priority activities. PowerPoint resources are being assembled to inform members about CCSSM and related NCTM resources. These will include grade-band-specific PowerPoint presentations for K–grade 3, grades 4–5, grades 6–8, and grades 9–12, which will soon be on the NCTM Web site. Also underway is initial work on bringing together representatives from several organizations to discuss the viability of an ongoing CCSSM oversight and advisory group. NCTM and three other mathematics education organizations worked together on producing this Joint Task Force report. At a time in the history of mathematics education, when it is important to work closely with other organizations, we are positioned to merge our strengths to promote excellence and equity in mathematics teaching and learning for all students in every school in our nation.

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