Report on the Committee on Education

Hyman Bass, Chair
12/2/96

The American mathematics community, unlike those of its sister sciences, has historically separated its interests in research (AMS) and in education (MAA). As our profession is changing, in response to economic, demographic and social pressures, it is recognized that we must adopt more holistic views of professional needs. In education, in particular, there is an important and complex role for the research community. This applies to enhancements of graduate programs to prepare future faculty for their roles as teachers, to greater attention to the quality of undergraduate instruction for diverse student populations, to improved efforts in courses for future school teachers of mathematics, and to outreach in the national efforts to improve mathematics instruction in the schools.

In these conditions, the Committee on Education was created, in 1990, to give a locus for focused discussion and review of educational issues of concern to the Society. Its activities include advising the Society leadership on policy matters, informing the membership through reports and programs at the Society meetings, and liaison (and, when appropriate, collaboration) with other organizations, such as JPBM, MAA, AMATYC (American Association of Two-Year Colleges), and NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics). These connections are an important aspect of the bridge-building between the research community and the diverse education communities, which is needed to facilitate more cohesive progress toward educational improvement. Connections with organizations representing other scientific disciplines are also likely to be strengthened, as a result of increased emphasis on undergraduate education and cross-disciplinary interaction.

Following are some prominent items among the current activities of the Committee.

TIMSS (Third International Mathematics and Science Education Study): This is a massive study of both student achievement (of half a million students) and of educational design and practice in mathematics and science teaching at three levels (4th grade, 8th grade, and last year of high school) in 41 countries. The rich data base provided, which is susceptible to fruitful secondary analysis, gives an unprecedented opportunity for comparative study of American education in mathematics and science. As the TIMSS data are released, in stages, over the current year, it will be desirable to orchestrate informed public discussion of their significance and potential. The AMS Committee on Education is collaborating with other organizations in this effort. Reports on TIMSS related material were presented at its recent meetings, from both Lois Peak, of the National Center for Educational Statistics, and from Joan Ferrini-Mundy and Danny Goroff from MSEB. The Committee on Education is sponsoring a program at the San Diego annual meeting (January 1997) featuring Jim Stigler and Al Manaster, who were involved in an unprecedented video study of 8th grade mathematics lessons in the US, Japan, and Germany. Another TIMSS-related program is sponsored by MER. Further, the Education home page on the AMS web site (URL is http:///committees/education) provides information and links to TIMSS reports.

Other Committee on Education sponsored programs at the San Diego meeting: A workshop for graduate students on career information (S. Rankin and D. Hughes Hallett); K-12 intervention (J. Roitman and S. Addington); and, jointly with the Committee on Professional Programs and Services, a session on professional development (C. Bennett).

NCTM, Standards 2000: The NCTM is embarking on a revision and synthesis of its Curriculum, Teaching, and Assessment Standards, to be published as a single volume in the year 2000. These Standards have been the subject of lively public discussion, and some mathematicians have urged a stronger involvement of professional mathematicians in their formulation. The NCTM is seeking feedback from the various professional communities in this effort. To facilitate this, it has invited the AMS, among other organizations, to form a resource group to assist the NCTM writing team, chaired by Joan Ferrini-Mundy. To this end, the Committee on Education has formed a Subcommittee on AMS/NCTM2000, chaired by Roger Howe, which will review draft materials from the NCTM. This subcommittee has been given the broader charge of fostering more informed and critical public discussion and review of some of the scholarly literature on teaching and learning that bears on the issues addressed by the Standards. The Subcommittee membership, still being assembled, includes Richard Askey, Hyman Bass, Wayne Bishop, Roger Howe, Alfred Manaster, David Moore, Judy Roitman, and Mark Saul.

MR coverage of educational research: There is a growing community of scholars, some initially trained as research mathematicians, who are turning their attention to research in mathematics education, with an emphasis on undergraduate education. Some of these people hold positions in Mathematics Departments. Yet there is virtually no professional recognition of, and little convenient access to, this scholarship within the AMS community. As a modest first gesture in this direction, the CoE was asked to consider the possibility that MR (Mathematical Reviews®) extend coverage to an appropriate sector of the literature on educational research. This is a policy matter that lies within the jurisdiction of the MR Editorial Committee (MREC). It also raises issues of cost and staff expertise. In cooperation with the MREC, the Committee on Education has appointed a Subcommittee, chaired by Joan Ferrini-Mundy, to investigate the desirability and feasibility of extending MR coverage in this way.

MAA Project NEXT: The AMS Committee on Education is exploring ways to collaborate with the MAA in support of this very successful program.

Committee meetings: On an experimental basis, partly for reasons of economy, the Committee will have only one plenary meeting in 1997, with a small executive committee meeting once more in conjunction with the meeting of the Committee on Science Policy.

American Mathematical Society