Daniel J. Brahier
Department of Educational Curriculum & Instruction
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, OH 43403
This month, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics released the landmark Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (PSSM). This document is an attempt to update, refine, and expand upon major points made in the original three Standards documents released between 1989 and 1995. PSSM expands the notion of how to effectively use technology and breaks the Standards into four grade bands that are more detailed and easier to follow than the previous curriculum Standards document. Perhaps one of the most striking features of the new book is the way that the authors attempted to follow the TIMSS recommendations for "less content" at each grade level band but with mastery of concepts expected within those grades.
When Dr. Ed Silver, chair of the 6-8 grade band, presented the Standards in Chicago, he emphasized that the middle grades' teachers should focus on operations with rational numbers and should expect children to arrive at sixth grade with "computational fluency." In other words, it's important to develop fractions and decimals across the earlier grades, but the writing team wants the ultimate responsibility of rational number operations to be up to the middle school teacher. When a teacher in the audience asked the committee's opinion of teaching right triangle trigonometry in the middle grades, Dr. Silver emphatically stated that the committee didn't even consider it because it's a high school topic that would take too much time away from content on which middle school teachers should focus. Again, the attempt here was to narrow the quantity of outcomes at each grade level band so that each level can have realistic expectations for incoming students.
As I heard this conversation progressed, I reflected on the fact that the Ohio Model Curriculum in mathematics recommends the study of right triangle trigonometry in grades 7 and 8. Also, I just recently spoke to a second grade teacher who is using one of the NSF-funded curricular materials that introduces integers, including operations with negative numbers, in the primary grades. She expressed concern that, in an attempt to "beef up" the elementary curriculum, the program is pushing children to study concepts that are, perhaps, developmentally inappropriate. Also, the study of integers is keeping her students from exploring some of the key concepts that are expected in the local course of study at her grade level. In PSSM, integer concepts and operations do not appear until the 6-8 grade band!
So, I begin to wonder how we will all deal with these changes in the new NCTM document. Are the textbooks, including NSF-funded materials, going to have to be revised to reflect a more direct and limited set of content recommendations? What about state models and assessments -- will they also need to be updated to comply with the Standards? It seems as though the states did a great deal of work over the last decade in advancing their programs in mathematics to reflect the 1989 Standards but will need to reconsider their programs in light of the new Standards.
What is your "take" on all of this? If you are a teacher educator, how will you adjust the preparation of teachers in light of PSSM? What will you highlight as major changes between the 1989 and 2000 Standards? If you are a classroom teacher or serve on a curriculum committee, what changes do you see yourself implementing to reflect the spirit of the new document?
We would like to hear from you! Take a moment to drop an e-mail to Daniel Brahier to continue this discussion into the next RCML newsletter.
Home || RCML Officers || RCML
History || RCML Founding Members
Past Conferences ||
FOCUS--On Learning Problems In Mathematics || FOCUS Tables of Contents || Wilson Memorial Lecture ||