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Dialogues: A Look Back—and Forward

April 2002

Mathematics Education Dialogues, a publication of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, began during the 1997–1998 school year. Dialogues, as it became known,was envisioned as a method of starting a discussion. Its purpose was to provide a forum through which NCTM members could become informed about a variety of viewpoints on compelling, complex, and often controversial issues that transcend grade levels in mathematics education. The first volume, under the leadership of Editorial Task Force members Zalman Usiskin (chair), Cynthia Ballheim, Johnny Lott, Barbara Marshall, Peggy House, and Hung-Hsi Wu, consisted of two issues. The first issue, published in March 1998, asked "Is Mathematics Necessary? Is Long Division Obsolete?" The second issue, "High Stakes Testing—Does It Help or Does It Hurt?" was published in May–June 1998.

The Task Force sought and presented diverse opinions and has included comments from readers since the second issue. The opinions expressed in the publication did not constitute an official position, and NCTM received praise for presenting both sides of an issue by providing the forum for the discussion without taking a stand.

Volume 2 raised our consciousness with three issues: "Tracking—a Help or a Hindrance?" (November 1998), "Who Should Determine What You Teach?" (April 1999), and "Calculators—What Is Their Place in Mathematics Classrooms?" (May–June 1999). The Editorial Panel members included Zalman Usiskin (chair), Johnny Lott (editor), Cynthia Ballheim, Barbara Marshall, Peggy House, and Hyman Bass.

"Back to the Basics or Forward to the Basics—Which Philosophy Should We Embrace?" (October 1999) and "Algebra? A Gate! A Barrier! A Mystery!" (April 2000) were the hot topics of volume 3, when Johnny Lott (editor), Cynthia Ballheim, Frank Lester, and Paul Zorn were on the Editorial Panel.

The Editorial Panel began volume 4 with ideas on what could be done with either the print medium or the Web medium but not both. Johnny Lott, Cynthia Ballheim, Frank Lester, and Paul Zorn explored the new format of a combined print and Web publication through the topics of "Teacher Preparation: A Never-Ending Quandary" (October 2000), "Integrate to Make Whole?" (January 2001), and "Professional Development: Apple Pie or Raw Rhubarb?" (May–June 2001).

The new format continued through volume 5 with two issues. The first topic was "What Can We Learn from Comparing the Performance of Asian and North American Students?" (November 2001). The last topic was, appropriately, "What Motivates Teachers of Mathematics to Enter and Remain in the Profession?" (April 2002), one of the greatest challenges of our profession. The Editorial Panel members were Tom Cooney (editor), Frank Lester, Paul Zorn, and Lucille Croom.

In this last issue of Mathematics Education Dialogues, the Editorial Panel thanks everyone who has participated in discussing topics in Dialogues. We appreciate the extensive efforts of previous editors and panel members in making Dialogues an important forum for exchanges among NCTM members. A special thanks goes to Andy Reeves, formerly director of editorial services at NCTM, who served as staff liaison at the Reston office for Mathematics Education Dialogues. We recognize that the countless contributions from our readers were important to Dialogues. NCTM received more than 500 responses to the questionnaire in the first issue of Dialogues. This forum has provided NCTM members with the opportunity to participate in discussions about important topics related to teaching and learning mathematics.

Although this issue is the last issue of Dialogues, NCTM continues to support the discussion of controversial, complex, and compelling topics. Authors are encouraged to identify controversial topics and submit articles to the following departments in the school journals: "Soundoff!" in the Mathematics Teacher, "On My Mind" in Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, and "In My Opinion" in Teaching Children Mathematics. Articles that give opposing viewpoints in a "point-counterpoint" format are particularly encouraged.

The Editorial Panel
Thomas J. Cooney, Editor
Lucille Croom
Frank Lester
Paul Zorn

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