Trends in the Degree of Importance Assigned to the NCTM's Standards by Elementary Preservice teachers.((National Council of Teachers of Mathematics)(Statistical Data Included)

By Cunningham, Robert F.; Thayer, Richard P. | Focus on Learning Problems in Mathematics, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

Trends in the Degree of Importance Assigned to the NCTM's Standards by Elementary Preservice teachers.((National Council of Teachers of Mathematics)(Statistical Data Included)


Cunningham, Robert F., Thayer, Richard P., Focus on Learning Problems in Mathematics


Introduction

The Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM], 1989) was issued to reflect what should be of value and to promote reform in mathematics education. The Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics (NCTM, 1991) envisioned teachers as the primary agents for implementing the Curriculum Standards. In response, the Curriculum Standards have been incorporated into mathematics methods courses to prepare teachers to assume their roles as agents of change. However, success depends on the value that preservice teachers assign to the Standards and trends in these valuations remain unexamined.

Since its publication, the Curriculum Standards (hereafter referred to as the Standards), have had a highly visible impact on mathematics education. Besides being incorporated into mathematics methods courses, they have influenced K-12 curricula, and methods of assessment, as well as professional development programs (Ferrini-Mundy, 1996; Findell, 1996; Research Advisory Committee, 1998). In addition, publishers have aligned school mathematics textbooks with the Standards, although sometimes merely as addons (Battista, 1999; Chandler & Brosnan, 1994). The Standards have spawned numerous articles pointing to a myriad of effects they would have on schools and students (Crosswhite, Dossey & Frey, 1989; Lindquist, Dossey & Mullis, 1995; Loveless, 1997; Research Advisory Committee, 1990) and have been recently updated by the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 2000).

Despite the visibility of reform in these contexts, other manifestations of reform are less obvious. It is difficult to determine to what degree teachers have implemented the NCTM's vision of how mathematics should be taught in the classroom. Widespread awareness or acceptance of reform was not the case in 1993, when a survey (Weiss, 1994) was conducted of 6000 teachers in grades 1-12. Only 56% of high school teachers and less than 28% of elementary teachers were "well aware" of the Standards. Also, when teachers from the elementary and high school levels were asked how important: instructional strategies suggested by the Standards were to effective instruction, they valued some strategies but rejected others.

The Standards called for a vision of mathematics teaching that encourages active student participation and problem solving. It fostered a vision in which students would be given opportunities to pose their own problems that involve everyday situations and have opportunity to read, write, and discuss meaningful mathematics. Students would be exposed to a variety of computation techniques, such as using paper and pencil, using calculators, and performing mental computation both exact and approximate. Ultimately, this style of teaching would encourage students to construct their own knowledge.

However, this vision is in conflict with both the way many preservice teachers learned mathematics and their conceptions of mathematics teaching (Frykholm, 1996; NCTM, 1991; Schram & Wilcox, 1988). All too often, they have been exposed to a style of mathematics teaching in which students are discouraged from being anything other than passive receptors of knowledge -- a style preoccupied with paper and pencil computation which emphasizes memorization of facts, rules, and formulas along with a diet of routine problems often lacking in meaning.

The Professional Standards (NCTM, 1991) acknowledged this conflict and recommends that preservice teachers be provided with opportunities to examine and revise their conceptions about mathematics teaching. Examination of their conceptions, before they take methods courses, might form a baseline for comparison and a compass for needed revisions. Preservice educators could benefit in knowing the initial value their students assign to the Standards, as well as trends in these evaluations. …

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