U.S. math teachers' group stresses connections, equity

April 11, 2000

CHAPEL HILL -- More than 10 years after becoming the first national teacher organization to release comprehensive educational standards for its subject area, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has done it again. The group unveiled its updated and expanded "Principles and Standards for School Mathematics" at a news conference in Chicago today (Wednesday, April 12).

The 400-page document reflects changes in mathematics and its uses over the past decade, changes in society's needs and improvements in what's known about how students learn, according to Dr. Carol Malloy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education. It is an attempt to guide teaching of mathematics from pre-kindergarten to the 12th grade around the country and make it better.

"Now in much greater detail, the standards specify exactly what we think a good mathematics program should be for students at each grade level," Malloy said. "Over the past decade we've learned a lot about what works and what does not, and the document reflects what we've learned."

Malloy, assistant professor of education at UNC-CH, serves on the board of directors of the council and helped write the section dealing with math education in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

"One of the standards is that mathematics should be connected, that subjects such as algebra should not be taught in isolation from other subjects like geometry," she said. "One way of solving a math problem might be more appropriate than another, but other representations might be helpful and should be considered as well."

One key principle is that excellence in mathematics education requires equity, Malloy said. Teachers and schools should have high expectations of all students and support all of them, not just those with special interest in mathematics.

"A lot of people say, 'Oh, I was never that good at mathematics,' and it's accepted," she said. "We don't believe that's the way it should be. That attitude developed because math was taught in ways that made it seem difficult, I think, but just about everyone can learn math and use it to solve real problems."

In short, making mathematics relevant to students' lives makes it easier and more exciting to learn, she added. Other principles stress the increasing importance of technology such as computers and the need for testing not just for grading but to enhance learning.

Thousands of teachers, researchers, administrators and others were involved in the five-year effort to produce the new document. Two other North Carolinians helped write the standards: Jeane Joyner of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction and Carol Midgett, an elementary school teacher in Southport, N.C. Dr. Lee Stiff of N.C. State University is the council's president-elect.

The updated principles and standards have been designed to provide guidance to teachers, schools, districts and states, while leaving specific curriculum decisions to local educators, Malloy said. It also sets goals for mathematics instruction and assessment through 12th grade and should help education officials and policy-makers boost the quality of mathematics programs.

"This is an important effort for North Carolina as well as the nation since North Carolina children have improved their math scores over the past several years," Malloy said. "Our state, which is using the national standards, is being recognized lately as one that is doing a lot to foster stronger mathematics knowledge among students."

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has more than 100,000 members around the world.
Note: Malloy can be reached in Chicago at 312-565-1234, Ext. 2926 (hotel). She will check her voice messages several times Wednesday. She will be back at her office 919-962-6607 on April 17.

Contact: David Williamson, 919-962-8596.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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