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U. S. Doctorates in Mathematics Education: Developing Stewards of the Discipline

Robert E. Reyes and John A. Dossey, editors
American Mathematical Society/Mathematical Association of America
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
CBMS Issues in Mathematics Education 15
[Reviewed by
Christine Latulippe
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U.S. Doctorates in Mathematics Education: Developing Stewards of the Discipline is volume 15 in the CBMS series “Issues in Mathematics Education”. The Conference Board of Mathematical Sciences (CBMS) is an organization of professional organizations, including the MAA, AMS, and NCTM and AMTE. The “Issues in Mathematics Education” series has brought us gems like The Mathematical Education of Teachers (vol. 11) and One Field, Many Paths: U.S. Doctoral Programs in Mathematics Education (vol. 9), the precursor to this volume.

The authors and editors of materials in this series are at the top of their fields. In 2007, there was an international conference on U.S. doctoral programs in mathematics education. This book compiles data, conference presentations, and conclusions in a readable format. The book is divided into 7 parts, composed of 27 “papers,” but there are no chapter numbers, making quick reference somewhat difficult.

Part 1, regarding background of doctorates in mathematics education was especially clear and informative. The data presented about past and current programs, as well as a survey of current math ed doctoral students were nicely summarized. This part of the book would be of interest to current and potential students, and also to administrators working to establish or create a doctoral program in math ed.

Part 2 addresses “stewards of the discipline”, including data from the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate. This section brings up interesting questions including the purposes of doctoral education in general. The language of “intellectual communities” is introduced by Golde, and used throughout the book. In this part, there are reports on seven breakout sessions from the conference addressing topics deemed part of the core knowledge of mathematics education: mathematics, curriculum, policy, equity, and technology.

Part 3 continues with the idea of creating stewards of the discipline from the standpoint of program delivery. Mewborn (p. 129) summarizes program delivery nicely into three primary needs of math ed doctoral students: “interaction with peers, interaction with ‘more knowledgeable others’… and access to resources.” The five breakout session reports in this section address preparation of researchers, part-time students, online courses, and more on current practices. The final report in this section on induction into the profession emphasizes the idea of a mathematics education community within the communities of math and education by highlighting existing new faculty support programs offered by the MAA, AERA, and other professional organizations.

Part 4 provides an international perspective on doctoral programs in math ed. Brazil, Nordic Countries, Japan, and Spain are discussed in papers related to a panel discussion at the conference. Throughout the book attention is drawn to the differences among math ed doctoral programs across the U.S. and expanding the lens to include the international programs exposes still more variety.

Part 5 reports on a panel discussion addressing accreditation of doctoral programs. The authors are sensitive to advantages and disadvantages to standardization and evaluation of programs. Although it is clear throughout the book that not all programs are created equal, national guidelines could potentially increase the quality and status of the degree in the greater academic community. Part 6 was an interesting collection of three unsolicited essays regarding personal perspectives on doctoral programs in math ed. I especially found the open questions and reflections of a new assistant professor of mathematics education to be interesting reading. Tyminski integrates his own experiences with the conference ideas, creating a synthesis similar to what my own brain was working on while reading the book.

Part 7 contains reflections and closing commentary. Since the 1999 conference on U.S. doctorates in mathematics education, a thread of discussion in the math ed community has continued and the authors assess where we currently stand. This section was bold and thoughtful. Mathematics education is examined from the standpoint of a complex system. Currently there is a risk of not moving forward as a community of math ed doctoral programs because the extent of programmatic independence and diversity keeps programs from learning from one another. This is a fascinating idea in this context and in others. The current structure of math ed doctoral programs has its difficulties, as will a new system which “chooses quality over convenience” (p. 251).

I won’t be placing this book on my “required reading list” for students and colleagues, but I am glad to now have a reference copy on my shelf. The overall book is a good resource for faculty and administrators working in or creating doctoral programs in mathematics education. The background data in Part 1 would be informative to students considering earning a doctorate in math ed. Reading this wasn’t quite as good as attending the conference itself, but the papers provided me with a stimulating and thought-provoking read. When’s the next conference?

Christine Latulippe is a recent graduate of a doctoral program in mathematics education (one discussed in Part 3 of this book). She is currently assistant professor of mathematics education at Cal Poly Pomona, which has a program for masters degrees in math education, but not doctorates. In addition to teaching classes and advising math teaching credential students, she creates mathematical games for parties. “Pin the Nose on Euler” is a popular favorite.