ASA GIVES INPUT TO UPDATING THE NCTM STANDARDS

Tom Moore
Grinnell College

Newsletter for the Section on Statistical Education
Volume 4, Number 2 (Summer 1998)


In 1989 the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) published a three-volume series of Standards that recommended substantial changes in the nature of K-12 mathematics education. The volumes were "Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics", "Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics", and "Assessment Standards for School Mathematics". (These volumes are available through the NCTM.) For the past two years NCTM has been in the process of updating the Standards to reflect developments in mathematics education that have occurred during the past decade. The NCTM Writing Group's goal is to publish the updated Standards in the year 2000.

To help in their task the NCTM asked various national professional societies in the mathematical sciences, including ASA, to form what they termed Association Review Groups (ARGs) to give on-going advice during the process of updating. In December of 1996 Lynne Billard appointed to the ASA ARG: Carol Joyce Blumberg (Winona State University), Christine Franklin (University of Georgia), Jerry Moreno (John Carroll University), Judith O'Fallon (Mayo Clinic), Rosemary Roberts (Bowdoin College), Richard Scheaffer (University of Florida), with myself as chair. Since then all ARGs, including ASA's, have responded to three sets of questions sent to them by NCTM's Writing Group.

With each set of questions, our ARG has engaged in a lively list-serve discussion for several weeks that leads to a drafting of a consensus document that must then undergo further scrutiny and re-writing until the term "consensus" is deserved. At that point we send it to the NCTM.

Here are summaries of the three sets of questions that we have responded to thus far:

(1) January 1997: An initial set of questions broadly asking for our views on the nature of mathematics, for our vision of appropriate mathematics content at the K-12 level, for our assessment of how well the 1989 Standards met our vision of what K-12 mathematics education should be like, and, finally, for our suggestions as to how NCTM might blend the three sets of Standards described in the first paragraph above.

(2) April of 1997: A set of questions that arose from NCTM's assimilation of the first round of responses from the various ARGs that related to: (a) the nature of and place of algorithms in the curriculum, and (b) the nature of and place of proof and mathematical reasoning.

(3) December of 1997: A set of questions focusing on the future. Specifically, this third round asked us: (a) To articulate current advances and changes in mathematics that should influence the updated Standards, (b) To reflect on the role of mathematics education as it relates to developing a mathematically intelligent citizenry as well as ensuring an adequate education of students going on to careers in the mathematical sciences, and (c) To advise the NCTM on the nature of activities that students should be engaged in through the K-12 curriculum and to specifically comment on the role of algebra in the curriculum.

In a nutshell, the ASA ARG approves of the 1989 Standards. In particular we believe that the 1989 Standards did an excellent job of advocating both the content and pedagogy for teaching statistics, data analysis, and probability throughout the K-12 curriculum. We applaud their consistent reinforcement of the collect-analyze-interpret paradigm as the heart of good data analysis and we support their advocacy of active learning in many instances, such as the use of physical simulation to teach concepts of probability.

At JSM in Anaheim last summer, the ARG held an open discussion about the NCTM Standards that gave the group good input concerning their responses to the first two rounds of questions. Other statisticians who could not attend that discussion have given us feedback on other occasions after reading our responses on the web.

This past January at the joint mathematics meetings in Baltimore, I participated in a panel discussion organized by Ken Ross of the Mathematical Association of America's ARG (MAA's ARG) and Roger Howe of the American Mathematical Society's ARG on the updating of the Standards. Joining us on the panel were representatives from the Association of Symbolic Logic, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and Association for Women in Mathematics. The discussion was interesting and useful. My impression from this, and from having read other ARG responses, was that the ASA ARG had found consensus on the Standards easier to reach than had most other ARGs. It was at the same Baltimore meeting that Secretary of Education Richard Riley exhorted mathematicians to take an active role in improving K-12 mathematics education. (See http://www.maa.org/news/riley.html for a report on Secretary Riley's January 9 speech.) Ken Ross provides a summary of the Baltimore panel discussion in the May/June issue of MAA's Focus magazine.

Specific text of the ASA ARG's responses to the 3 sets of questions can be found at the web site (which is part of the ASA's Section on Statistical Education web site): http://www.stat.ncsu.edu/stated/nctm.html. The updating of the Standards is still in progress and the ASA ARG welcomes your input about opinions and recommendations we have expressed in these responses. You may direct your remarks or questions to me at mooret@ac.grin.edu or to any of the ARG members.

The NCTM has also created a web site where you can find responses from all of the ARGS: http://www.nctm.org/standards2000/args.html.


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