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Emergence of Goals & Standards

Support and Controversy over the National Standards Movement


In 1989 several new forces emerged that began to disrupt the landscape of mathematics education. Nationally, President George H.W. Bush and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton in his capacity as chairman of the National Governors Association convened the nation's governors for an unprecedented Education Summit to set forth national goals for education under the slogan "America 2000." One of these goals was that "by the year 2000, U.S. students will be first in the world in science and mathematics achievement."

At the same time, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, published the first version of proposed national standards for school mathematics. Shortly thereafter, the National Research Council produced two reports on the urgency of revitalizing the mathematical sciences—one about issues, the other about people and demographics. Here is a sample of some of the major reports from sources other than MAA that carry consequences for undergraduate mathematics:

  • Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics. Commission for Standards for School Mathematics. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1989. The first version of NCTM's Standards aimed at producing an informed electorate and mathematically literate adults. These were the first set of nation-wide standards developed for any school subject in the U.S.
  • Everybody Counts: A Report to the Nation on the Future of Mathematics Education. Committee on Mathematical Sciences in the Year 2000, Mathematical Sciences Education Board (MSEB), and Board on Mathematical Sciences. National Academy Press, 1989. A synthesis of the thinking of these three boards at the National Research Council describing forces that impinge on mathematics and on education—computers, research, demography, competitiveness—and how the interaction among these forces produces a system that is peculiarly resistant to change.
  • Fifty Hours: A Core Curriculum for College Students. Lynne V. Cheney, Chairman. Washington, DC: National Endowment for the Humanities, 1989. Proposal for 50 hours of core study for all undergraduates, including a one-year six-hour course focusing on major concepts, methods, and applications of the mathematical sciences, including "theoretical advances from the ancient to the contemporary" and "applications in such areas as business, economics, statistics, science, and art."
  • Renewing U.S. Mathematics: A Plan for the 1990s. Committee on the Mathematical Sciences: Status and Future Directions, Edward E. David, chairman. Board on Mathematical Sciences, National Research Council. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1990. This update of the 1984 "David Report" on the status of the mathematical sciences concludes that, for a variety of reasons, "the academic foundations of the mathematical sciences research enterprise are as shaky now as in 1984."
  • Actions for Renewing U.S. Mathematical Sciences Departments. Board on Mathematical Sciences. National Research Council, 1990. A compilation of ideas to aid university mathematics departments in designing their own improvement plans in response to the various calls to renew the mathematical sciences enterprise in the United States.
  • A Challenge of Numbers: People in the Mathematical Sciences. NRC Committee on the Mathematical Sciences in the Year 2000, Bernard L. Madison & Therese A. Hart. National Academy Press, 1990. Documenting an urgent need for revitalization, this report from the MS 2000 project provides a comprehensive set of data describing the demographic situation in the mathematical sciences.
  • The New Liberal Arts Program: A 1990 Report. Samuel Goldberg, editor. New York: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, 1990. A collection of reports from projects supported by a $20 million undertaking begun in 1980 by the Sloan Foundation to "infuse meaningful experiences" with quantitative, mathematical, and technological approaches to a wide range of liberal arts fields.
  • Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. Ernest L. Boyer. Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1990. An influential effort to expand the definition of scholarship in a way that would enhance the quality of college and university education. Explores four types of scholarship: of discovery, of integration, of application, and of teaching.
  • America 2000: An Education Strategy. U.S. Department of Education. U.S. Government Printing office, 1991. A brief report outlining strategies for the president, congress, governors, businesses, and parents to help achieve the national education goals that emerged from the 1989 Education Summit.
  • What Work Requires of Schools: A SCANS Report for America 2000. The Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills. U.S. Department of Labor. U.S. Government Printing office, June, 1991. A report on the implications for learning of changes in the world of work created by world-wide competition and the information-age economy.

During this same period MAA's work on policy for collegiate mathematics was divided among several committees, panels, and task forces. Many were only loosely associated with CUPM. (As noted earlier, MAA subsequently set up a Council structure to group committees in related areas.) In 1992 the MAA published yet another "compendium" of reports concerning the undergraduate curriculum, this one containing both reprints and new reports from innovative email "focus groups" whose goals were to record a variety of helpful ideas rather than to make specific consensus-based recommendations.

Here is a list (with some links) of MAA publications on the undergraduate program in mathematics from this period, only a few of which emerged as reports by or of CUPM:

  • A Curriculum in Flux: Mathematics at Two-Year Colleges. CUPM Subcommittee on Mathematics Curriculum at Two-Year Colleges, Ronald M. Davis, Editor. MAA Reports No. 1. Mathematical Association of America, 1989. Recommendations prepared by a joint committee of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) and the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC).
  • A Source Book for College Mathematics Teaching. Committee on the Teaching of Undergraduate Mathematics (CTUM), Alan H. Schoenfeld, editor. MAA Reports No. 2. Mathematical Association of America, 1989.
  • How Should Mathematicians Prepare for College Teaching? Bettye Anne Case. Notices of American Mathematical Society, 36 (Dec. 1989) 1344-1346.
  • Undergraduate Major in the Mathematical Sciences. CUPM Subcommittee on the Major in the Mathematical Sciences, Bettye Anne Case, chairman. Mathematical Association of America, 1991. A brief sequel to CUPM's previous major curricular report (in 1981) reflecting important practices that emerged in the 1980s and recommending new areas of emphasis.
  • A Call for Change: Recommendations for the Mathematical Preparation of Teachers of Mathematics. Committee on the Mathematical Education of Teachers (COMET), James R. C. Leitzel, Chairman. MAA Reports No. 3. Mathematical Association of America, 1989.
  • Challenges for College Mathematics: An Agenda for the Next Decade. Joint Task Force on Study in Depth of the MAA and AAC (the Association of American Colleges), Lynn A. Steen, chairman. Focus, 10:6 (Nov.-Dec. 1990) Center Sect., p. 1-28. One of several disciplinary reports on the relation of "study in depth" to goals for the undergraduate major, assurance of students' intellectual development, and connections with other fields. Part of a sequel to Integrity in the College Curriculum (AAC, 1985). (A summary appeared in Liberal Learning and the Arts and Sciences Major, Vol 2: Reports from the Fields, AAC, 1990, pp.77-95.)
  • Guidelines for the Continuing Mathematical Education of Teachers. Committee on the Mathematical Education of Teachers (COMET). MAA Notes No. 10. Mathematical Association of America, 1992.
  • Responses to the Challenge: Keys to Improved Instruction by Teaching Assistants and Part-TIme Instructors. Committee on Teaching Assistants and Part-Time Instructors, Bettye Anne Case, Editor. MAA Notes No. 11. Mathematical Association of America, 1992.
  • The Use of Calculators in the Standardized Testing of Mathematics. John Kenelly, Editor. MAA Notes No. 12. Mathematical Association of America, 1992. A joint publication with The College Board.
  • Discrete Mathematics in the First Two Years. Anthony Ralston, Editor. MAA Notes No. 15. Mathematical Association of America, 1992.
  • Priming the Calculus Pump: Innovations and Resources. CUPM Subcommittee on Calculus Reform and the First Two Years (CRAFTY), Thomas W. Tucker, Editor. MAA Notes No. 17 Mathematical Association of America, 1992.
  • Library Recommendations for Undergraduate Mathematics. Ad hoc CUPM Subcommittee on the Basic Library List, Lynn A. Steen, chairman. MAA Reports No. 4. Mathematical Association of America, 1992. A major updating of the Basic Library List first published in 1965 and revised in 1976. This edition contains 3000 titles (as compared with 300 in 1965 and 700 in 1976); subsequent to this publication the Basic Library List was redesigned as an on-line resource.
  • Two-Year College Mathematics Library Recommendations . Ad hoc CUPM Subcommittee on the Basic Library List, Lynn A. Steen, chairman. MAA Reports No. 5. Mathematical Association of America, 1992. A major updating of the Basic Library List for Two Year Colleges first published in 1971, then revised in 1980. Two much shorter variations were also published—one for high school libraries, and other for public libraries.
  • Heeding the Call for Change: Suggestions for Curricular Action. Lynn A. Steen, editor. MAA Notes No. 8. Mathematical Association of America, 1992. Reports from e-mail focus groups discussing curricular priorities in five different areas supplemented by commissioned essays on two areas of emerging controversy as well as reprints of some earlier reports of CUPM subcommittees:

Forty years after MAA's began the Committee on the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics two conferences were held to review the history and evolution of the core curriculum in collegiate mathematics. The opening essay surveyed the evolution of CUPM's recommendations; the entire volume, published in 1998, contains papers touching on those mathematics courses taken by the vast majority of U.S. college students.

  • Confronting the Core Curriculum: History, Goals, Models, Challenges. Lynn Arthur Steen. Confronting the Core Curriculum: History, Goals, Models, Challenges, p. 3-13. Keynote address at the 1994 Core Curriculum conference outlining the evolution of the undergraduate mathematics curriculum since the founding of CUPM 40 years earlier.
  • Core Curriculum in Context: Considering Change in the Undergraduate Mathematics Major. John A. Dossey, editor. MAA Notes No. 45. Mathematical Association of America, 1998. Papers from two conferences held at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1994 and 1995 on challenges posed by changes in the first two years of undergraduate mathematics.

Beginning in the mid-1990s, reports from CUPM and other MAA committees dealing with the undergraduate curriculum were generally published on-line (and sometimes only on-line). Access to these more recent reports is available from the CUPM Web Page.

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