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Back to May Ed Reporter
 
Education Reporter
NUMBER 172 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS MAY 2000

Is the Correct Answer Important?
NEW YORK, NY - "Get the right answer" is the new goal of mathematics teaching! At its annual convention last month, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) approved a new policy to emphasize "accuracy, efficiency and basic skills," such as memorization of the multiplication tables. The new message, which is what proponents of traditional math have been demanding all along, was articulated by Joan Ferrini-Mundy, chairwoman of the committee to revise the standards.

Since 1989, the NCTM standards have promoted math concepts, math appreciation and math "discovery" rather than basic computational skills. According to the New York Times (4-13-00), critics and even some supporters of the old standards are calling the revision "a retreat."

The NCTM has been under fire for years for content standards that mathematicians assert "substitute calculator skills and a whole range of general, content independent skills, such as 'thinking and writing about math,' for genuine 'focused, specific, teachable, and measurable math content.' " When U.S. Education Department Secretary Richard Riley endorsed 10 so-called "fuzzy math" programs last fall, more than 200 mathematicians and scholars publicly denounced the move in an open letter. (See Education Reporter, March 2000.)

Some critics complain that the NCTM didn't go far enough in emphasizing the importance of basic skills, given the scope of the 1989 standards' influence on textbooks and teacher training. Nonetheless, the change is expected to have a huge impact on how math is taught in America's classrooms.


 
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