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An open Letter to the NCTM regarding the history of mathematics
Posted:
Nov 17, 1999 4:12 PM


To the writers of the NCTM standards:
We are a group of educators, parents, and concerned citizens who have been discussing the history of mathematics using your NCTM Standards 2000 Discussion Area. We believe that there is a serious deficiency in the standards related to the history of mathematics. While we believe mathematical content (the curriculum) should be the main focus of the standards, we also believe that a short guide on history should also be included.
We believe the NCTM organization has an obligation to mention within the new version of the 'Standards':
1. the historical nature of mathematics, 2. how mathematical contributions, both historical and current, enhance our society in new and interesting ways, 3. that most major theorems and other mathematical objects have been named after people whose contributions to mathematics ought to be recognized, 4. the great, interesting, and in many cases still unsolved problems of the past, and 5. the historical partnership between mathematics and science in the development of both fields, and the importance of the interplay between them.
In many cases, if these points are not mentioned, they will not be incorporated into curriculum verbiage and hence will be considered unimportant. When even the students interested in mathematics do not know who our mathematical predecessors are, then mathematics becomes nothing more than a tool for engineers rather a distinguished discipline unto itself.
We invite and encourage the writers of the NCTM standards to read the thread "History of Mathematics" under "Question 1. Areas of Mathematics" for the complete discussion concerning these statements.
The thread includes many ideas, opinions, and examples which should help to clarify and strengthen the points made in this letter.
We ask that an officer of NCTM reply back to the forum with NCTM's position regarding our suggestions. In this form, the writers can acknowledge our letter and inform us how these issues will be addressed in the revised Standards.
A list of research and literature to support NCTM's position would also be helpful in the reply. We would also like to have be a short bibliography of CURRENT texts on the history of mathematics accessible to both students and teachers added to the standards to make the information more accessible to all.
Thank you.
Bruce Nelson Steven Jystad <other names to follow in this discussion thread>



