by Johnny W. Lott, NCTM President 2002-2004
NCTM News Bulletin, May/June 2002
As I begin my two-year term as president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, NCTM is approaching another crossroads. The Council is no longer a small organization predominantly serving high school teachers. In addition, we now provide support to elementary teachers, middle school teachers, teacher educators, supervisors, researchers, and others. An organization with nearly 100,000 members, the Council accepts its growing responsibilities and will continue to address complex mathematics education issues in a straightforward way.
Publishing Principles and Standards for School Mathematics was another giant step in NCTM's move to address reform in mathematics education curriculum. Putting ideas in this document into practice has implications for students, teachers, and ultimately an educated adult populace. While implementing the Standards, other big issues must also be addressed.
- NCTM must determine how to use its resources and influence to help eradicate the mathematics performance gaps between white students and their Hispanic and black counterparts.
President Lee Stiff wrote, "Hispanics and blacks are not reaching achievement levels necessary to guarantee their future success in mathematics and all that implies. Unfortunately, our knowledge of this fact has not caused us to take steps to eliminate performance gaps. The will to alter what we do has simply not been stirred (NCTM News Bulletin, November 2001; p. 3)." As an organization, we must "stir the will."
- 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.
As teachers of mathematics, we sometimes think that all know and understand that our dynamic discipline is as essential as reading. Because that feeling is not universal, we must actively consider how we can change attitudes from "Oh, I hated and could never do mathematics" to "Not understanding mathematics is like not being able to use a cell phone or computer. I can't live without it."
- 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.
Mathematics literacy for all students is NCTM's primary focus, and we will reach that goal only when we have a shared vision of mathematics. We must strive for this and cannot waver when critics cloud our message by arguing over the merits of various methods of providing a high-quality mathematics education to all students.
- We must carry the message that, as a dynamic discipline, mathematics at all levels will continue to change.
As technology changes and as the mathematical needs of the world change, new topics will be added to the curricula; older topics may be deleted. Advances in curricula and technology will be accompanied by new pedagogical techniques.
We must work actively with other organizations, including the Mathematical Association of America and the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges to demonstrate the dynamic nature of mathematics. To this end, we must both form and work with joint committees similar to the Joint American Statistical Association/National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Committee on Statistics.
- NCTM must be ready to lead when policymakers consider legislation that will affect mathematics education in the US or Canada.
As the premier mathematics education organization in North America, we must determine when there is a definitive role the Council should take to help its members and policymakers. Testing is one of the current issues that NCTM is exploring.
- NCTM must use its human and monetary resources to inform members and the public at large about mathematical education issues.
The Council must determine how best to provide quality information—through the Internet, in print, through radio and television, or through some combination of these.
- NCTM must consider efforts to provide mentoring to teachers through grassroots efforts of affiliates.
Only by developing and strengthening grassroots affiliate efforts can NCTM help new teachers stay in the profession long enough to become good, experienced mathematics teachers. And only through combined efforts with affiliates' can the Council help experienced teachers continue building their teaching skills.
I look forward to representing NCTM during the next two years. It will be an exciting and rewarding time, as NCTM focuses on these and other challenges and further defines its leadership role in mathematics education. To help NCTM efforts, e-mail me your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.