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Suggested Citation:"Closing Remarks." National Research Council. 1998. The Nature and Role of Algebra in the K-14 Curriculum: Proceedings of a National Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6286.
Page 95
Suggested Citation:"Closing Remarks." National Research Council. 1998. The Nature and Role of Algebra in the K-14 Curriculum: Proceedings of a National Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6286.
Page 96

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Closing Remarks BEVERLY WILLIAMS: "Many firsts occurred over the last two days. I can relate what those firsts were for me personally. As a K to 12 math curriculum coordinator for Pulaski County School District in Arkansas, I experienced a first when I was asked to chair the task force that worked to put on this symposium, and I met Joan Ferrini-Mundy and other people at the Mathematical Sciences Education Board. And I had to learn about the National Research Council and the National Academy of Sciences. I think it strengthened me as a professional person to know what avenues of support are out there for me. Another personal first and hopefully it was for many of you, also was the opportunity to interact with mathematicians these last two days. I interacted with many mathematics educators. I have grown as a person, and I thank you for the opportunity to be here and to share with mathematicians and with mathematics educators. I hope many of you had firsts, that perhaps some of you who are collegiate people or from universities had an opportunity to sit beside an elementary-school teacher for the first time and talk about the role of algebra, for example. I remember yesterday morning when we were talking about curriculum, and someone said, 'We need to do this in the K to 6 grades.' And one of the K to 6 grade-level teachers said, 'I am that person. Tell me what you want me to do.' It was nice to have those interactions for the first time. Another first happened this week that probably only a very few people are aware of. Actually, it happened yesterday: one of the participants told me last night that for the first time she felt the life of her child growing inside her. She said, 'I will never forget this symposium because the first kick I felt was sitting in this auditorium.' That may be a first for the Academy, also. Martin van Reeuwijk and I were talking moments ago about the level of the people who are here and the continuum of knowledge present in this room. We talked about the hard questions, such as were our needs met, what were our goals, and did we have our own agenda for algebra. But I think the hardest part has yet to come. That will be when we go back to our states and regions and attempt to do a symposium and have a dialogue. We had a continuum with people here possibly loaded at the front end with mathematics leaders but when we get back to Arkansas, I think our continuum will be very long. We will have people who are on the leadership rolls of mathematics education and people we hope to bring into the continuum for the first time. So, as you think about some of the dialogue that we have had the last two days, you should also think about the rich and different kinds of dialogue you are going to have back in your own states and how different the continuum will be. *The following remarks by Beverly Williams were edited from verbatim transcriptions. 95

96 THE NATURE AND ROLE OF ALGEBRA IN THE K-14 CURRICULUM I heard a comment today and I think it was very appropriate about how we all need to be reminded as a community of mathematics educators that we cannot stand alone. It is imperative, for example, that we avoid the unintentional teacher bashing that we sometimes engage in with each other, where we start laying blame along the different levels, as in if only the universities did this or if the high schools did this or if the kindergartens.... We must remember our roles as leaders in the mathematics education communities and be really sensitive to what we say. The person who brought that up in one of the sessions today made a point on which we all can agree. A few announcements. First, the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) resource kit will be mailed out to all the affiliated groups. If you don't get it in the next 12 months, call the NCTM headquarters office. Also, the National Science Foundation is going to send all of the participants an updated listing of the National Center for Implementation of Standards-Based Mathematics Curricula, including contact information regarding NSF-funded curriculum projects. You should be receiving the proper information, with summaries and contact information. In terms of regional efforts, I want to make sure that there is not a misconception about funding. The money for you to host a state or regional conference is whatever you can pull together. We at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics will be glad to give you some hints of who to ask for funding. We know that many of you already have organized opportunities for dialogue at conferences and state meetings. Perhaps you can do a preconference on algebra to complement those efforts. We greatly appreciate your being with us these last two days. Have a great summer and school year."

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With the 1989 release of Everybody Counts by the Mathematical Sciences Education Board (MSEB) of the National Research Council and the Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the "standards movement" in K-12 education was launched. Since that time, the MSEB and the NCTM have remained committed to deepening the public debate, discourse, and understanding of the principles and implications of standards-based reform. One of the main tenets in the NCTM Standards is commitment to providing high-quality mathematical experiences to all students. Another feature of the Standards is emphasis on development of specific mathematical topics across the grades. In particular, the Standards emphasize the importance of algebraic thinking as an essential strand in the elementary school curriculum.

Issues related to school algebra are pivotal in many ways. Traditionally, algebra in high school or earlier has been considered a gatekeeper, critical to participation in postsecondary education, especially for minority students. Yet, as traditionally taught, first-year algebra courses have been characterized as an unmitigated disaster for most students. There have been many shifts in the algebra curriculum in schools within recent years. Some of these have been successful first steps in increasing enrollment in algebra and in broadening the scope of the algebra curriculum. Others have compounded existing problems. Algebra is not yet conceived of as a K-14 subject. Issues of opportunity and equity persist. Because there is no one answer to the dilemma of how to deal with algebra, making progress requires sustained dialogue, experimentation, reflection, and communication of ideas and practices at both the local and national levels. As an initial step in moving from national-level dialogue and speculations to concerted local and state level work on the role of algebra in the curriculum, the MSEB and the NCTM co-sponsored a national symposium, "The Nature and Role of Algebra in the K-14 Curriculum," on May 27 and 28, 1997, at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

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