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State of the Council on Mathematics Education

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by Johnny W. Lott, NCTM President 2002-2004
NCTM News Bulletin, May/June 2003

One year ago, the NCTM News Bulletin announced that the council had set the following goals (in bold) for the next two years. Responding to these goals, the Council, through its Board of Directors and staff, has been continuing strategic planning for how to move forward in the coming years. This is a summary of our progress on these goals.

NCTM must determine how to use its resources and influence to help eradicate the mathematics performance gaps among students.

In February, the Board of Directors created the Mathematics Achievement Gap Task Force, charged with determining what NCTM actions are feasible in closing the achievement or learning gap. The task force has a deadline of 2005 to recommend actions. The Equity and Diversity Strategic Integration Task Force was also created by the Board in February and has one year to make its recommendations to the Board.

NCTM must demonstrate that mathematics is a dynamic discipline that supports the needs of an enlightened citizenry as well as those of the scientific community.

A part of this goal is a determination of the Council to stay the course outlined in Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, which states that mathematics is a dynamic discipline. Beyond that, during the past year, the Council was involved in two major conferences at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. The first was on quantitative literacy, with participants from many disciplines actively discussing what can and should be done to guarantee a mathematically literate adult population. The second conference was on the Future of the Scientific Workforce, and it included a frank discussion of what is needed to educate the workforce of the future.

We must support the creation of a smoothly coordinated curriculum for pre-K–12 schools, technical schools, community colleges, and universities that challenges all students.

This goal reaches beyond the typical NCTM audience and members. The Council has approved seeking funding to determine how the NCTM Standards are represented in the content of state standards. We have representatives working on the Placement and Articulation Committee of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), and we are working with MAA on a joint position statement on some courses taught in high school and carrying college credit. The Council is also represented on the Committee on the Mathematics Education of Teachers and has a representative on the advisory committee that is reviewing the revisions of the Crossroads standards document produced by the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges. Finally, the Council has formed the Learning, Curriculum, Teaching, and Assessment Committee, which will help us present a set of position statements showing exactly where the Council stands on issues arising in these important areas.

We must carry the message that, as a dynamic discipline, mathematics at all levels will continue to change.

To increase the public's understanding of the issues and changes involving mathematics education, the Council has engaged a Washington-based firm to guide us in moving forward with a strategic political advocacy agenda or with possible recommendations to change the public perception of NCTM.

NCTM must consider efforts to provide mentoring to teachers through grassroots efforts of Affiliates.

Mentoring new teachers and working with Affiliates are two ways that NCTM may begin to address the mathematics teacher shortage in the future. NCTM has produced a position statement on mentoring. Although establishing and implementing mentoring programs for inexperienced teachers is beyond the Council's capabilities, NCTM would support such programs implemented at the local level. This goal will be considered by the newly formed Professional Development Services Committee, which is charged with considering how to present a more coordinated and comprehensive set of professional development activities to teachers and administrators.

NCTM must be ready to lead when policymakers consider legislation that will affect mathematics education in the United States or Canada.

As we have seen with recent federal policy changes, it is often difficult to be in a sufficient state of readiness to influence complex or sweeping policy changes. However, through ongoing efforts of a government relations consultant with the Board and staff, the Council is constantly working to influence legislation, to participate with the U.S. Department of Education in the implementation efforts of the No Child Left Behind Act, and to represent mathematics teachers to lawmakers.

Most actions taken to date are snapshots in time of what your Council is doing, but they demonstrate that progress is being made toward the outlined goals. Other strategic plans and goals are under development, and they will constantly be monitored, assessed, and refined to guarantee that we serve our members. Please send any ideas or suggestions to jlott@nctm.org. Your thoughts and suggestions have been very helpful in the past year.

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