Search All of the Math Forum:
Views expressed in these public forums are not endorsed by
NCTM or The Math Forum.



Standards Recommendations lack Research Support (part 4 of Open Letter)
Posted:
Dec 7, 1995 1:25 PM


4. What would you, as President of the Council, say to a school superintendent who asks for a basis in research or experience that supports the recommendations contained in the Standards? (See Enclosure 4 The NCTM's own Research Advisory Committee says that Standards recommendations lack research support).
Enclosure 4 Report of the NCTM Research Advisary Committee
In the section on "Next Steps" in the Standards (p. 251 ) we are told that our teachers and mathematics educators must now trace out the "coherent network of relationships (that) exists among the identified topics" in order to "develop curricula based on the Standards/" We are assured that the "nodes" of this network have been identified. (What more could one ask?) We are also informed that new tests must be devised to "assess" these new curricula. In short, after all this fanfare, we have no curriculum for school mathematics and we have no tests defining mathematical competency. Nor do we have "a scope and sequence chart" or a "listing of topics by grade level". These mundane but rather essential items are pointedly omitted from the Standards (p. 252) which offer only "a framework for curriculum development". (What kind of charge was given to the Standards Committee by the board?) Those who must produce the new curricula and accompanying tests face a gargantuan task. The Standard's writers did the easy part, namely produce a precis' of Math Education 405. Moreover, impartial review reveals that they really didn't do this easy part very well. Their framework and their sweeping, loudly proclaimed recommendations are largely baseless insofar as cited research is concerned. The following statements by the NCTM's own Research Advisory Committee support this view. They appeared in our "Journal for Research in Mathematics Education" for July, 1988. While they pertained to the draft version of the Standards, they apply with equal force to the final version. "The Standards document contains many recommendations, but in general it does not provide a research context for the recommendations even when such a context is available." The Committee asks "For which curricular and instructional recommendations made in the draft version of the Standards document does there exist substantial research support?" The committee continues "Of course, it is also important to consider research evidence that might refute any of the recommendations made in the document. For example, the research base needs to be identified and clarified both for curricular recommendations, such as delaying and decreased emphasis on fraction computation, and also for instructional recommendations, such as the use of calculators with students at all grades K12, extensive utilization of cooperative learning groups, the importance of work with manipulative materials, and emphasis on student inquiry and investigation". I submit that these same remarks would apply to many of their other recommendations, such as the integrated curriculum, suppression of oral exposition by the teacher and their grotesquely complicated assessment procedures which Paul Greenberg might describe as "One more clarion call for vague incoherence." To summarize: Most of the major recommendations in the Standards have nothing to support them other than the consensus of the authors and the conventional wisdom harbored by some of our more vocal mathematics educators. How dare these writers propose sweeping changes including a complete restructuring of the school mathematics curriculum on such flimsy evidence?



