All federally funded programs for pre-school and K-8 students should include an appropriate introduction to the effective use of calculators and other technology. The national test should be constructed to include the judicious use of calculators. In this way the test can focus on higher-order conceptual understanding. This might also help ensure that technology is made available widely in the middle grades. In the short term, synthesis and dissemination of existing research and examples about the promising uses of the World Wide Web, the Internet, and other technologies for enhancing mathematics education should be assembled and disseminated widely. Models are needed by parents, teachers, and students for productively using test items to improve mathematics learning.
We recommend that public information efforts highlight the linkages between the national test and the associated action plan, in order to mobilize the general public and the mathematics community to understand the entire process.
In particular, the public, the business community, and the mathematics community need to understand how any national test might be used as a vehicle for improving mathematics education. It is likely that the public will measure the effectiveness of the action plan strategies by progress on the proposed national test. Any test explicitly intended to promote improvement in student learning and in mathematics education more generally is not as familiar to the public as a test designed to measure the status quo. Such a test would be an indicator of “what ought to be” rather than “what is.” Helping the public understand the complexity and enormity of change and improvement, on a time frame they will tolerate, is challenging.
To carry out this recommendation, it will be essential to:
Organize immediately a public information effort, managed by a consortium of mathematics and mathematics education organizations and an experienced public information firm, to design and implement a program introducing and promoting the importance of high standards in K-8 mathematics.
This effort could extend the experiences that the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics have had in the areas of public information. A major goal would be to influence public opinion about the need for a significant mathematics experience for all students through grade eight, and to explain how a national test could promote this goal. New curriculum materials and standards-like goals need to be part of the public awareness, as well as information about the various purposes and types of assessment. Considerations about how to motivate students to see this test as important are crucial. This effort should also highlight the importance of mathematics in applications, the beauty of mathematics as a field, and the role of mathematics as a gateway to careers and to higher education.
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All federally funded programs for pre-school and K-8 students should include an appropriate introduction to the effective use of calculators and other technology. The national test should be constructed to include the judicious use of calculators. In this way the test can focus on higher-order conceptual understanding. This might also help ensure that technology is made available widely in the middle grades. In the short term, synthesis and dissemination of existing research and examples about the promising uses of the World Wide Web, the Internet, and other technologies for enhancing mathematics education should be assembled and disseminated widely. Models are needed by parents, teachers, and students for productively using test items to improve mathematics learning.
Recommendations for Building Public Support
We recommend that public information efforts highlight the linkages between the national test and the associated action plan, in order to mobilize the general public and the mathematics community to understand the entire process.
In particular, the public, the business community, and the mathematics community need to understand how any national test might be used as a vehicle for improving mathematics education. It is likely that the public will measure the effectiveness of the action plan strategies by progress on the proposed national test. Any test explicitly intended to promote improvement in student learning and in mathematics education more generally is not as familiar to the public as a test designed to measure the status quo. Such a test would be an indicator of “what ought to be” rather than “what is.” Helping the public understand the complexity and enormity of change and improvement, on a time frame they will tolerate, is challenging.
To carry out this recommendation, it will be essential to:
Organize immediately a public information effort, managed by a consortium of mathematics and mathematics education organizations and an experienced public information firm, to design and implement a program introducing and promoting the importance of high standards in K-8 mathematics.
This effort could extend the experiences that the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics have had in the areas of public information. A major goal would be to influence public opinion about the need for a significant mathematics experience for all students through grade eight, and to explain how a national test could promote this goal. New curriculum materials and standards-like goals need to be part of the public awareness, as well as information about the various purposes and types of assessment. Considerations about how to motivate students to see this test as important are crucial. This effort should also highlight the importance of mathematics in applications, the beauty of mathematics as a field, and the role of mathematics as a gateway to careers and to higher education.
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Over the long term, schools could function as community centers with extracurricular programs centered on the mathematical emphasis of the national test. Such activity might have the wider impact of promoting academic achievement in all areas by helping students develop social networks in which academic success is valued.
Mobilize the mathematics community in its understanding and support of K-12 mathematics education, in light of the new context provided by the national test.
In the short term, the National Science Foundation and other funders should make clear, through their program criteria and announcement, their expectation that, whenever appropriate, mathematics faculty and departments should exhibit commitment to and engagement in the improvement of K-12 mathematics education—as something essential to their own self interest. Also, when possible, all federally funded programs that address issues in mathematics education should involve broad representation of professionals from the mathematical sciences, to include academic and industrial mathematicians and mathematics educators.
UNDERLYING CONSIDERATIONS
The following considerations about the context in which the action strategy will be developed and undertaken were fundamental to the MSEB discussions that are the basis for this report.
We assume that the action strategy developed by the Working Group will build on current efforts. The established activity to improve mathematics education that has been built through the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the initiatives supported by the National Science Foundation and the U. S. Department of Education, as well as many private foundations, together with the many excellent efforts initiated at the state and local school level, should serve as the base and inspiration for this renewed effort to improve mathematics education. These efforts are consistent with the reforms advocated in the NRC reports Reshaping School Mathematics (NRC, 1990) and Everybody Counts (NRC, 1989). In particular, much is to be learned from situations where assessments have been used as the lever for improved mathematics education (such as in the states of Connecticut and Texas). The notion of using assessment as a means of supporting good instructional practice is central in the NRC report Measuring What Counts (NRC, 1993c). Those individuals and groups who have been working to develop standards-based curricula will also have much to contribute to the action strategy design and implementation.
Secondly, many of our recommendations for the action strategy are based on the expectation that the national test in mathematics will be consistent with current thinking of experts in mathematics assessment (NCTM, 1995; NRC, 1993c). The MSEB document, Measuring What Counts (NRC, 1993c), provides three principles for assessment which, if upheld in the national test, would also provide direction for the associated action strategy. These are: “The Content Principle: assessment should reflect the mathematics that is most important for