Home > Math News Archive Detail

 << Prev 9/17/2006 Next >>

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has released Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten through Grade 8 Mathematics: A Quest for Coherence, a new report that urges math teachers (K-8) to focus on three big mathematics ideas at each grade level.

In contrast to providing a list of very specific items (standards, learning expectations) grouped under general goals, this report suggests a refocus on a small number of significant mathematical "targets" for each grade level, offering a "way of thinking about what is important in school mathematics." Throughout, there remains the need for clear emphasis on the Process Standards-communication, reasoning, representation, connections, and, particularly, problem solving.

NCTM's additional hope is that the report will encourage teachers to engage in an "ongoing, far-reaching, significant discussion with the potential to guide the thinking of the profession in the development...development of new models for defining curriculum, organizing instruction, developing materials, and creating meaningful assessments that can help students learn critical mathematical skills, processes, and ways of thinking and can measure and communicate what students know about the mathematics that we expect them to learn."

What qualifies a concept or topic to be a curriculum focal point, you ask? According to the NCTm report, a focal point has to pass "three rigorous tests:

• Is it mathematically important, both for further study in mathematics and for use in applications in and outside of school?
• Does it 'fit' with what is known about learning mathematics?
• Does it connect logically with the mathematics in earlier and later grade levels?"
All of the focal points and their descriptions can be downloaded FREE from NCTM's web site, but it might be helpful here to list the focal points for the middle school grades. Clicking on the links will provide an expanded description of each focal point for that grade level.

1. Number and Operations: Developing an understanding of and fluency with multiplication and division of fractions and decimals
2. Number and Operations: Connecting ratio and rate to multiplication and division
3. Algebra: Writing, interpreting, and using mathematical expressions and equations