Skip to Main Content

AMS Committee on Education Supplement to Annual Report, 2000

Roger Howe, Yale University
February 5, 2001

The main activity of the Committee on Education (CoE) for the calendar year 2000 was, as usual, its Annual Meeting, held on October 27-28, at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Washington, D.C. A description of the activities of that meeting was prepared by Ms. Monica Foulkes of the Washington office of the AMS, and has been submitted to the Council as the first installment of the annual CoE report. I am grateful to Ms. Foulkes for her efforts on behalf of CoE, not only in preparing the report, but in arranging the logistics of the annual meeting. I also thank Dr. Sam Rankin for advice and for arranging many of the presentations that the Committee heard. I note that, at the suggestion of Ms. Foulkes and Dr. Rankin, invitations were made to chairs of mathematics departments to attend the meeting, and a signficant number did attend. I believe that having chairs present increases the value of the meetings, both for the presenters and for AMS, and favor continuing this practice.

This supplement will describe some other activities carried out under the auspices of the Committee. These activities are perhaps not part of the official portfolio of the CoE as originally envisioned, and they added considerably to the time investment of the Chair, but I hope that the Council will find that these activities did benefit the Society, and I believe that they illustrate the value of having a organizational locus to which such activities might be referred.

1. Input to Mathematical Preparation of Teachers Project

CoE provided comment on a draft of the forthcoming CBMS report on the mathematical preparation of teachers (MPT project). This project is underwritten by a grant from the Department of Education to the MAA, and has been underway since early 1998, under the leadership of Professor James Lewis (Chair of the Steering Committee) and Professor Allan Tucker (Chair of the Writing Committee). (Lewis is a member of CoE, and Tucker is a former MAA liaison to CoE. I also serve as AMS representative on the Steering Committee of MTP.) The final report is expected in early 2001. At Lewis's behest, in August I formed an ad hoc committee to provide input for the next revision of the draft report. This MTP Comment Committee (MTPCC) functioned analogously to the AMSARG, the subcommittee of CoE assembled to comment on the 1998 draft of what became the Principles and Standards of School Mathematics, published by the NCTM in early 2000. After several rounds of rather intense e-mail exchange, we transmitted to Tucker a summary of comments on the draft. The rather short timeline under which the MTPCC was functioning did not allow for complete resolution of all issues debated, but a consensus or substantial majority view was reached on many points. The letter to Tucker provided a distinctive AMS voice for the revision process, and a number of our comments were incorporated in the next draft. Members of the MPTCC were: Richard Askey (University of Wisconsin), Richard Escobales (State University of New York at Canisius), Thomas Parker (Michigan State University), Judith Roitman (University of Kansas). Askey and Roitman are regular members of the CoE. I express my thanks to them all for the energy they brought on short notice to the task.

2. Input to CRAFTY curriculum project.

CRAFTY (Committee on Calculus Reform And the First Two Years) of the MAA is preparing a report on needs and requirements for the mathematics major in the coming decade. To inform the report, CRAFTY is staging a series of workshops with various applications disciplines to clarify their needs and desires for mathematics offerings. At the invitation of organizer Professor David Bressoud of Macalester College, I attended a workshop devoted to the mathematical needs of the life sciences as a representative of CoE. It might have been desirable to have a CoE member at each of the CRAFTY workshops, but this could not have been financed by the current budget of CoE, which foresees an annual meeting, but little other expense-incurring activity.

3. Input to Mathematics Education Legislation.

In April, Congressman Vernon Ehlers introduced into the House of Representatives three bills for improving mathematics education. Dr. Sam Rankin notified me of the bills, and suggested that AMS comment on them would be desirable. I had the bills communicated to all members of CoE, and solicited letters of comment, but I did not try to designate particular members of CoE to discuss the bills and prepare remarks. I personally did write a letter commenting on the bills, but I do not know whether other CoE members did so. In the CoE annual meeting, we learned the fate of the Ehlers bills: none in fact passed. One of the three bills had looked particularly likely to pass, and had been brought to the floor of the House, but several Democratic representatives, who had in fact sponsored the bill at an earlier stage, developed qualms about its inclusion of private schools as recipients of funds, and voted against.